Universal child benefit

This election the Conserve-us Party has announced a policy ensuring that all Canadian children can escape poverty. Party leader Brad Broad  quoted research by Professor I. V. Towers  finding  that it costs $180,000 to raise a child to age 18 in Canada . His government would ensure that parents can afford this costly role of chid-rearing.

His party will provide a universal child benefit. Unlike the Narrow Life Party’s plan to fund only children in 3rd party daycare, the Conserve Us party will make sure that children outside of daycare can also get funds. This provides choice, says Broad. At the press conference, Broad was asked a number of questions about why he has chosen this style of funding, and how it improves on previous credits the party had promised.

The benefit will be a tax deduction so that as long as a mother earned money and is paying tax, she will be able to reduce the tax. She may have earned at any profession at all, as long as she was away from the child, because, says Broad, care of a child matters. As long as she can produce a receipt for having paid for care, on a standard 8 by 11  paper, she can get her taxes reduced. If the child was in the care of a paid sitter, nanny, nursery, kindergarten, daycare, school lunch program, sleep away camp as long as she has that magic receipt, she will be covered.  If she earned no money the previous year and had to give up income to be home with a child, clearly she is not in financial need he says so she would be excluded from the plan. A wide range of costs of childcare must be recognized he said, not just daycare costs as for the Narrow Life Party. The only costs not recognized would be for example costs of feeding or clothing or supervising a child.

Asked if it would be Ok if there was no receipt, if the parent provided care, a mother, dad, grandma, aunt, sister, older brother or sister, Broad said well no, not that.  It has to be care by someone else, not family because though this is a benefit that is broad, it should not be ridiculous. It is an inclusive benefit he says, with no discrimination based on race, gender, nationality, religion or language of the parent or child, just as long as the care is not by a blood relative. It is completely blind to bias he says.  He added that you just can’t be sure parents can be trusted to use money . The state has to be responsible with tax payer support, he said, lest the funds be spent on popcorn.

The family allowance program that operated in Canada from 1945-1995 did send money directly to the mother, did not require that it be spent on 3rd party care, and did not require receipts. The 1970 Royal Commission on the Status of Women recommended that such a benefit be given to all mothers directly, to recognize the value of care of children and to ensure no mother was forced away from the child to do paid work against her will. However that plan, said Broad, did not employ nearly enough civil servants to administer it.  To enhance a vibrant civil service and serve as s job creator post pandemic, he wants money to flow not to daycare, as with the Narrow Life Party, but more broadly,  to the parent, via a route that ensures a whole lot of scrutiny is involved by the civil service.

He said that  parents must apply for the universal benefit filling out form T1243-Schedule 44.  Those who do not have access to a computer or do not speak English of French or did not know of the program will not be able to access it because as he indicated,  government must to be responsible with taxpayer money.  An automatic benefit mailed to the parent based on the fact that the parents have a child would be way too smooth  to administer he observed. Such a plan would not require nearly enough civil servants to monitor it.  After all, he added, who knows that you have a child unless you filled out the form?  The department of birth records, tax forms declaring dependants, census counts,  school records, innoculation and health records are all in separate silos he says to protect privacy. They never communicate with each other, neighbors can’t be asked, the community is not aware of who lives in it so government has no clue you have a child unless you fill out this form..

This policy follows up on the plan of an earlier Conserve-us government that provided a sports and arts credit to parents. In this way the party  planned to motivate kids to get off their duff, away from the TV and video game console to do something active. The Canadian Council on Heartrate found that 4 to 14 year olds are too sedentary if they only go outside and play and that two year olds running laps around the kitchen or climbing furniture risk health problems from lack of exercise.  In lab tests it was found that kids are healthiest lining up to go over the pommel horse, taking turns on the bench in organized sports or taking music classes.

That credit, says Broad,  ensured a wide variety of sports activities could be pursued, and the breadth of this coverage was laudable.  Kids could go to baseball, hockey, ringuette, golf, or swim classes, take gymnastics, cheerleading, rock climbing, judo or martial arts. When the arts community under Pablo Mendelssohn said that arts matter as much as sport, the plan was expanded to include credits for taking piano, violin, banjo and tuba lessons, as well as painting, sculpture, tap dance and Highland fling.  To qualify the activity simply had to be a paid activity with receipts presented to tax officials on velum lined paper in any color as long as it was beige. There were however fights in community centres over this credit says Broad. Some club leaders felt excluded, and teachers of sword fighting and archery sparred off against those who taught wrestling to see who could get recognized for credits. The scene grew violent as the knitting guild got out its needles and embroidered the socks of those advocating coverage of hang- gliding so their socks were suspended from the ceiling. It had gotten nasty says Broad.

Parents were ecstatic in 2005 to get this credit because it encouraged kids’ activities and gave them a way to recognize individual aptitudes.  However there had to be limits, said Broad, or this system would just run away with itself. It  was a great job creator for the civil service to inspect the receipts for fingerprints and tampering. It was a great way for the state to gently monitor children’s wellbeing by not funding backgammon class or table tennis but funding chess and tennis, he said, but in the end it was just too much work. It was taking on average 4.5 years to approve a claim and some parents felt that was a bit too long.

The other problem with the sports and arts benefit, says Broad, is that some parents had complained . Some who bought their child a baseball mitt, hockey stick or bicycle  wanted to claim that.  Of course that was ludicrous Broad said, since that did not create jobs. Some parents wanted to claim the credit by teaching their own kids canoeing, or how to ride a bike but that also had to be denied said Broad because there were no receipts. The Department of Red Tape Enhancement needs receipts.  When Olympic athlete Parry Robust taught his own children speed skating this was not allowed of course because it is not clear that the instructor has expertise unless there is a receipt. Similarly when famed recording star and pianist Mo  Zart said he deserved the funds because he taught his kids to play the piano, again there was no receipt to prove this was competent instruction.

In the end the sports and arts credit was just too hard to administer said Broad. so his party set in place this universl-ish benefit, in a new and improved version. It goes for costs of any receipted class as long as it is not taught by a family member who might in some way be biased.

Children are the future of this nation, said teary-eyed Gushy Moneypenny, entrepreneur, who set up a children’s care centre and hires staff to provide receipted care.  It is about time that care of children is valued  broadly she said and  Broad agreed.

A small group of parents and grandparents in the background at the press conference had raised objections to the lack of coverage of care by parents. This group was seen to be  whisked away quietly, taken behind the campaign banner that read “Value choice in parenting”.

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