OpEd: Pro-family policies aren’t government priority – but they should be
The last couple dozen months of various COVID-19 waves and the associated cycle of pandemic restrictions and re-openings have made it clear families play a critical role in our social well-being. While last month’s federal election saw some debate around competing visions for childcare policy, it’s readily clear that better policy to support families won’t be the focus of post-pandemic federal government policy priorities — but it should be.
Simply put, the current federal policy framework doesn’t make it easier for people to have families and support them.
While it hasn’t ever occupied the same space in national discourse and media coverage as the latest environment-themed cash grab, the last few Conservative platforms had substantive ideas on strengthening and supporting families.
For example, the 2015 Conservative Party of Canada platform committed to increasing the amount eligible for the Adoption Expense Tax Credit from $15,000 to $20,000 per child and making the tax credit fully refundable. This proposal also made a re-appearance in both the 2019 and 2021 Conservative platform.
With an estimated 30,000 children waiting to be adopted, it’s an important policy change.
The 2019 Conservative platform also committed to making maternity benefits tax free, thereby removing federal income tax from EI maternity and EI parental benefits. It also committed to boosting the Registered Education Savings Plan.
The 2021 Conservative platform committed to substantial support for parents including those facing unbearably difficult situations that are more common than many think. Amongst others, the platform committed to extending EI parental benefits for at least eight weeks following the death of an infant. It committed to eight weeks of paid leave from employment in the event of a child’s death or stillbirth. The platform also had a proposal for paid bereavement leave following a miscarriage.
These are important policy ideas that can have a substantial positive impact for families. They should not have the door shut on them solely because the party proposing them didn’t form government.
In a country as large and internally divided as Canada is today, these are policies that can benefit Canadians across the country, regardless of whether they’re urban or rural, conservative or not.
In fact, Albertans overwhelmingly voted for the Conservatives with these platforms in all of these elections: nearly 60% of the vote and 29 of 34 seats in 2015, nearly 70% of the vote and 33 of 34 seats in 2019, and 55% of the vote and 30 of 34 seats in last month’s federal election.
The counterweight to the regional imbalance in the House of Commons is supposed to be the Senate, even if the dated formula for seat allocation hasn’t kept up with Western population growth and most developments in the country over the last century.
A big part of why I put my name forward for the Senate nominee election on October 18 is because there are critical issues facing our province and Alberta needs to be better represented in Ottawa.
Just because the policies overwhelmingly supported by Alberta voters didn’t fare as well in some Ontario swing ridings doesn’t mean Alberta’s voice shouldn’t be heard.
Better policy to support families is common sense, and if the House of Commons won’t act, our Senate should.