Liberal policies are not for grown-ups
Meet Julie and Peter Sweetnam, a handsome and devoted couple in their early 30s.
They are an archetypical Canadian "working family." They have three children under
10, Andrea, Jackson and Joseph. Peter is a carpenter, Julie trained as a florist. Julie
worked with Canada World Youth before she met her husband. The couple travelled
before they settled down, and they have a strong sense of how they want to live.
They moved out of their "pretty little house," into a trailer so Julie can stay home,
bring up her children herself, and so they can afford the independent school they've
At this school, the class sizes are never larger than 13 and parental participation is
not only encouraged but required. Julie was involved with La Leche League and found
that by the time her third child was born, she had built around herself a "bunch of
friends that filled the freezer two times and came by every day to help." With these
friends, she founded a pre-school. She finds that while she did (and does still, like
many stay-at-home moms) feel isolated, stressed and depressed, those feelings led
her to build community around herself, with the above happy results.
At the school, Julie does work exchange to pay for some of the tuition and she runs
a series of workshops for the kids, in baking, environmental exploration, puppet
making. There is no computer in the house and the TV is a 10-inch box that is
turned on Friday nights only. They have rabbits and a hamster, and stacks of games
and books. They spend most evenings sitting around the dinner table talking and
laughing. Or they read. There are school or sports activities several times a week
and they attend en famille. In the summers they go swimming every night.
I am constantly surprised how quickly our cultural beliefs are translated into
government regulation and taxation policies. The Liberals, hewing to a kind of
encouragement of right thinking, are bent on using tax cuts as carrot and stick. You
can have a tax cut if you behave the right way, make the right decisions at the right
time. Crafty social engineering is their aim, building community top-down is their
goal. They are not particularly interested in families. The word "families" appears
eight times in the Liberal platform.
In the Alliance platform, "families" appears 26 times. And reiterated more times than
I can count (well OK, seven) is the statement that all families will be treated equally.
Which means that government, which can't respond fast enough to social and
cultural change, stops getting in the way.
Consider, for a moment therefore, that the Alliance better understands the
experience of Julie and Peter. Its tax plan takes 1.7-million of the poorest of
Canadians off the tax roll, and if Julie and Peter make, say, less than $50,000, they
would pay no taxes at all, because all stay-at-home partners take a $10,000
deduction, the working partner takes $10,000, and each child, with child benefit,
$3,000. Any additional child care is universally deductible, whether it is incurred
outside the home or in it. Which further encourages family members, like
grandparents, to take care of their grandchildren. And that means Peter and Julie are
free to use their own money in the responsible manner they have already
We are rich enough as a culture to allow this couple, replete with virtue, enough of
their money so they can live in a house and make their own decisions about their
future, with regard to their children's education and their own retirement. To not
permit it is condescending in the extreme, to indicate with every patronizing word
and regulation, that the government doesn't think we're smart enough to take care of
ourselves. It is simply not true.
We are grown up now. We are educated. Many of us are well-travelled. We can
make informed choices, with our own money. We can fund our own schools, and
take care of our own families, if you give us back our money.
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