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Conservative leader Andrew Scheer announced this week that he would not tax maternity and parental leave benefits, which come from the government’s employment insurance scheme.
The policy is in line with the stance of the Conservative Party since the Harper era, which is that it is the role of government to subsidize people’s children.
Of course, the Conservative Party is not alone in this. The Trudeau Liberals have their Canada Child Benefit, which gives a handout in the number of hundreds of dollars a month for nearly every child in Canada. What is striking about the Conservative Party’s stance is that it is antithetical to a conservative notion of the role of government.
Conservatives believe that government should generally leave people alone and that people should be responsible for themselves. They believe that every person should be entitled to the fruits of his/her labor, only to have a portion taken away for a very justifiable service. Each person is also responsible to provide for themselves and their own family.
This policy, of course, violates both of these principles by taking money away from hard working people in order to provide for other people who have no reason for not providing for themselves.
Perhaps one could argue that Canadian conservatism includes a role for the government in taking steps to reduce poverty. Indeed, there have been attempts by the Trudeau government to spin the Canada Child Benefit as an anti-poverty measure, but this policy is nothing more than a vote-buying child subsidy. How do we know? The benefit doesn’t immediately end (or even taper severely) after one makes more than whatever poverty line the government wants to establish.
How can something be an anti-poverty measure if you’re giving money to people well out of poverty? The Canada Child Benefit spreads money primarily to people with the means to raise their own children. I can attest to this personally: I am a public sector lawyer expecting my first baby in January 2020.
I do not make extraordinary money as a brand new public sector lawyer; I am solidly in the middle class. Except I can guarantee you that I make enough such that having the government take money away from honest people to subsidize my baby is crazy.
If Andrew Scheer has his way, you’ll be subsidizing this lawyer’s baby to the tune of an extra $4000.
You cannot even console yourself that the money is going to be spent on necessities like diapers. People do not buy the necessities of life with marginal bonus income. They buy necessities with the first portion of their income, and then the leftovers get spent on luxury goods.
Everything from this subsidy is marginal and goes on top of what a middle class parent already had. That means that this money isn’t going to diapers. It’s going to mom’s new iPhone upgrade, or a down payment on a car that they would have otherwise waited to buy. These are not expenditures that justify siphoning away an honest person’s income.
If you want a poverty reduction strategy, I’m willing to talk policy. Let’s talk UBI, or negative income tax. Perhaps we can have a Canada Child Benefit that severely tapers once a household makes $45,000.
But as it is, this is not a poverty reduction strategy. Instead, we have a policy that will pay thousands of dollars to people who can afford to raise their children themselves. Clearly, I’m the winner in today’s Andrew Scheer sweepstakes. The losers are taxpayers and conservative values in Canada.
There isn’t a clear solution to this crisis in Canadian conservatism. Andrew Scheer is part of the problem. He tends to be the leader of opportunistic liberty, meaning he supports personal and economic freedom whenever the polls show it could give him an edge.
This is quite ironic given that he ran his leadership campaign on being a “true conservative,” and mocked candidate Michael Chong as being “Liberal-lite.” In reality, Chong’s radical package of tax reform, which involved slashing income taxes and moving towards consumption taxes, was revolutionary in its conservatism.
But we know how that story played out. Chong was obliterated with less than 10% of the vote even after many candidates were kicked off the ballot. This suggests that the problem is not only with Scheer, but rather is endemic to the Conservative Party itself. As mentioned above, this stance is not new to the Conservative Party, which has been happily subsidizing babies since 2006.
I see the problem as one of belief. It appears that the Conservative party does not believe in the values at its core. This unbelief is resulting in a slow death of Canadian conservatism as it continues to concede on policies that have no business being proposed by conservatives.
The CPC needs MPs and leaders who are unafraid of taking a proud stance in favor of freedom and pitching it to the electorate instead of constantly following the whim of every poll. Without it, I fear we may be entering into a cold era of conservatism in Canada.