Opinion

Please Advise! Do Governments Shamelessly Pander to Parents? (Hint: Yes!)

Boosting the Canada Child Benefit is a good idea from a government motivated by political cynicism.

By Steve Burgess 27 Oct 2017 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.

Dear Dr. Steve,

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has announced the Liberal government's new financial plan, with better-than-expected revenue projections. Among other things the fiscal update includes a boost to the Canada Child Benefit and the Working Income Tax Benefit. Is this good policy or just good politics?

Signed,

A Parent

Dear AP,

Your signature tells me you have children. Listen, could I borrow a couple? Just during the afternoons perhaps? I promise to take them on lovely outings to the park and the playground and the Canada Revenue Office, where we will stay just long enough for me to sign up for benefits.

After that perhaps we might attend a rally or two, or maybe just pose for group selfies that I can then post to social media. Once I have some photos with real live children I will finally be able to register my outrage on various issues, such as the Harvey Weinstein harassment stories. “As the parent of a daughter,” I will say (you do have a daughter, I hope), “I am appalled at this behaviour...”

Alas, Dr. Steve has no children of his own. This shuts him out from all manner of tax credits, as well as political and moral causes. Even advertising passes me by. If watching TV has taught Dr. Steve anything, it is that life is all about family. That's what makes it all worthwhile. Remove the adorable children from TV advertising and the message of every ad would become, “Life is an empty hellscape. Deal with it.”

Unless you are a bro, in which case life's meaning is found in beer. Or rum. Or more torque than any pickup in its class, and enough towing power to make the moustaches of all the other ram-tough cowboys go limp with envy. As a childless non-drinker who neither torques nor tows, Dr. Steve confesses to feeling very alienated sometimes. And yet as a single man, TV is all he has. It's cruel.

Dr. Steve loves kids, though. It's easy to love kids when you know their mother is going to wheel them out of the cafe after you have finished making funny faces at them, and that said mother will subsequently take care of all maintenance and feeding and diaper issues while you enjoy a second coffee. You may say that's not the same as real parenting but hey, it worked for generations of the British royal family. I'd probably be Father of the Year at Downton Abbey.

Anyway, the point is that Dr. Steve is used to being left outside target range of all this political pandering. Whether it's specious promises of ten-dollar-a-day-daycare, the new boost to the Canada Child Benefit, or the creation of B.C. Family Day, the childless adult is no one's political friend. Every Family Day I am afraid to go outside for fear of Fox News-type “War on Christmas” zealots will attack me for taking the day off while childless.

Being a family man is so popular even Bill Morneau tried it this week. While announcing the government's new fiscal policy in the House of Commons, the Minister of Undeclared French Villas said that as the result of past policies, “...families like mine stopped receiving benefit cheques.” He was then drowned out by the sound of piteous weeping and heartfelt expressions of sympathy.

Boosting the Canada Child Benefit is hard to argue with, which is why it happens. It's certainly not a bad idea. But it is perhaps symptomatic of the depressing way that expediency and pandering drives policy.

The recent Liberal attempt to change the tax code ran into a buzz saw of opposition from small business. The government quickly reversed itself, in the process exacerbating the original tax issue it had set out to correct. You can argue about whether the original Liberal plan was wise or misguided, but you can't deny that howls of outrages from interest groups made the Trudeau government retreat faster than the British in a Johnny Horton song.

Kids are wonderful. They deserve support. Less wonderful is the persistent impression that successive governments of every stripe make policy based on a haphazard quilt of shameless panders. Dr. Steve is not impressed. But then, as a single dude he would likely just blow any tax credit on rum and extra torque anyway.

You kids get off my lawn.  [Tyee]

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