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Are Canada’s politicians talking about what Canadians want to hear?

eReview #50 – By Dave Quist, Executive Director, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada

So it begins. Canadians are now in the midst of a federal election. Over the next 35 days, we will be inundated with information—email, “demon-dialers”, TV, radio, newspapers, even at the front door of our homes. It won’t end until voting day, Tuesday, October 14. For some of us, it will be policy wonk heaven – debates, policy announcements and political rhetoric every day. For others, it will be the longest five weeks imaginable.

If pundits are correct, we are going to hear a lot about leadership, economic indicators, the environment, jobs and healthcare. These are important issues. However, there are several other topics that should also be part of public discourse. This is true whether they receive any serious consideration this election cycle or not.

Here are some of the issues that we would like to see discussed during this federal campaign and subsequently, the 40th Parliament:

Family taxation

In the fall of 2005, the IMFC released a study showing the biggest challenge facing families today is finances. [1] Canada is one of the few western countries that does not permit some form of income splitting. [2] Many good working models exist around the world today, any one of which could be incorporated into our income tax structure. [3] The bottom line? We need to leave more money in the hands of Canadian families.

Child care

Here, there should not be a discussion so much as a correction of current policy. The federal government in 2007-2008 gave 2.2 billion to the provinces for child care through various agreements. In 2006, the Universal Child Care Plan added 2.4 billion to that. No additional monies should flow to the provinces for child care. Any additional funding should go directly to parents. Money to parents is preferable to the funding of an institutional daycare system because it is more accessible and equitable, and allows for greater diversity. Again, the optimal situation is allowing parents to keep their money in the first place. [4]

Social justice

Canada is known the world over for its social safety net. At the same time, Canada has some of the roughest neighbourhoods in North America – the downtown eastside in Vancouver, for example. Many of our aboriginal communities are likened to third world countries within our own borders.

For too long, we’ve tried to address these problems in the same way, with the same unsuccessful results. Families and parents are rarely included in solutions—they should be.

Criminal justice

In a submission to the Youth Criminal Justice Act Review, the IMFC championed the proven success of family involvement in resolving minor offenses through family group conferencing and other restorative measures. The IMFC also called for revisions to the pre-trial detainment guidelines that have allowed repeat young offenders to continue to put the public at risk while awaiting court proceedings.

Demographics

Canada’s birthrate of 1.5 is currently below our replacement rate of 2.1 children per family. Even with immigration, we are an aging society. The number of taxpayers continues to decline as the number of people retiring and drawing social benefits increase. This may have effects on our economy, in particular if our declining birth rate is partnered with poor public policy. Politicians with a vision for Canada’s future need to account appropriately for demographic decline.

Assisted human reproduction and stem cell research

Stem cell research needs debate. This medical field is moving quickly and legislation has not kept pace with it. Following the Royal Commission of 1993, the Assisted Reproduction Act was given Royal Assent in 2004 and the Board of Directors was finally chosen in September 2007, a mere 14 years later. To date, we are still waiting for the regulations that will set out how the industry and technology will be governed here in Canada. [5]

Royal Commission on the Future of the Family

Almost two years ago, the IMFC called for a Royal Commission on the Future of the Family. Research shows clearly that children fare best when raised by their married, biological mom and dad and yet our federal system does not recognize this. Given the changing social climate in our country, a Royal Commission would chronicle recent and rapid changes, while at the same time researching family over the long term.

These are just some of the issues that we need to discuss. Rest assured the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada will continue to offer research and public policy solutions on how to strengthen the family in Canada, whether or not politicians grasp the importance.


Endnotes

[1]Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. (2007). What’s at the Heart of the Canadian Family? Retrieved online September 8, 2008 at: http://www.imfcanada.org/article_files/IMFC%20Report%20(2).pdf

 

[2] Mintz. J. (2008). Taxing families: does the system need an overhaul? IMFC Review, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. Retrieved online September 8, 2008 at http://www.imfcanada.org/article_files/3.pdf

 

[3] Ibid. Dr. Jack Mintz goes into some detail on workable solutions from around the globe.

 

[4] Mrozek, A. (2008). Getting children out of the house, IMFC Review,Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. Retrieved online September 9, 2008 at http://www.imfcanada.org/article_files/2.pdf

 

[5] Fraher, K. (2008). Asking the experts about reproductive and genetic technologies in Canada, IMFC Review, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada.

Retrieved online September 8, 2008 at http://www.imfcanada.org/article_files/4.pdf

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