So far, the Canadian election is turning into a rally cry around the ‘family’.

The Conservative Party of Canada announced it’s plan to allow income splitting (although we already know it’s an empty promise because aliens have to colonize the planet first).

In most circles, this concept has been tossed out by tax experts and feminists because it’s generally an insult to women.

Picture the proposal in the context of single people or those who choose not to have children:

  • You must have children
  • The children must be 18 or under
  • You must be in a relationship with a higher income earner

A lot of people in Canada simply don’t qualify so it’s a targeted policy as opposed to a universal one.

Here’s what Queen’s University Law Professor Kathleen Lahey has to say about this:

Queen’s University  law professor Kathleen Lahey says the proposal will only benefit  couples with one reasonably high income, which is statistically a man with a  stay-at-home wife and children. She says such programs always give couples incentives for women to stay out of the workforce –  and then create huge tax barriers to any future decision to return to  work. In an email sent to journalists, she added:

When the Reform Party became the official opposition back in the  late 1990s, it immediately demanded that special hearings be held on the  merits of income splitting. A special committee struck to investigate this  scheme recommended against it because it would be costly ($4 billion for  1998), discriminatory, unfair, and economically counter-productive – it would  use government revenues to induce educated and experienced workers to  withdraw from paid work instead of remaining engaged in the labour  market.

Other critics suggest that the conclusion to be had from all of this is that income-splitting only benefits wealthy families that typically have a spouse (almost always the wife) staying at home to take care of the kids.  Erin Weir of Progressive Economics has this to say about income splitting:

A 1999 report of the standing committee on finance unanimously concluded that “a dual-earner couple with the same total income as a single-earner couple is not as well off as the latter. Not only are there additional employment-related expenses that must be incurred regarding the second worker, the value of unpaid work in the home, or leisure, must also be taken into account.” The Ontario Fair Tax Commission noted, “it has been shown that single-earner couples may have greater ability to pay than two-earner couples with the same income.” The current system of taxing individual income, with credits for dependent spouses and children, is more equitable than income splitting. Parents should have the option of caring for young children at home. However, giving $5 billion to couples in high-tax brackets is not a fair or effective way of providing this choice.

REAL Ways to Support All Parents

Instead of pursuing income-splitting, all parties should reinforce legislation related to pay equity and make examples of those organizations that do not pay people equally for equal contribution.

Also, a truly ‘family friendly’ AND ‘female friendly’ campaign platform would offer support for women (married, common-law, with a partner or single) with national day-care programs and other child-support infrastructure.  This would address ALL women that take on the role of managing their lives as well as those of their children.

Finally, longer maternity leaves, better EI benefits and stronger enforcement of rules for part-time employees would go a much longer way to securing stability for one-parent families, particularly those lead by women.

Stephen Harper’s Hidden Message

Stephen Harper’s proposal is a well-designed and coded meme structured to appeal to the ‘stay at home’ and ‘traditional family’ models that limit the opportunities – and voice – of female voters.  It’s also an attempt to appeal to their fundamentalist and religious base without having to talk about more sensitive issues like abortion and national day care.

I can’t imagine why any woman in their right mind would vote to support this.