Thursday, 26 October 2006

Evaluating Harper: child care

Part four in my evaluation of the Harper government, Conservative priority number four: helping parents with the cost of raising their children.

This is another issue for which I am going to give the Conservatives some points. I really don't think they deserve the flack they've been getting on this one.

We are talking, of course, about the Universal Child Care Benefit, the $100 monthly given for each child under 6 to be spent on popcorn and beer - er, child care. Those who oppose the Conservatives say that first of all, $100 is nowhere near enough to pay for child care. Of course, it isn't. So? It will relieve the burden by $100, and that's not a bad thing. Why should the government fund daycare 100% anyway? Putting the same amount of money into subsidized day care spots would make a big difference for a very small number of people. For most people it would be no help at all. And the people doing the screaming never do address the issue that the $100 also goes to parents who take care of their own children, who really do appreciate getting a little positive recognition for a change.

The reason the opponents don't address this issue is because it would make them look really bad. They'd have to admit they don't care about those parents because they are - gasp! - taking their lives in their own hands instead of asking government to do it for them and that makes them highly suspect.

There is a fundamental difference of philosophy at play here. One mentality says it is the responsibility of government to solve all my problems and to make sure that I bear the weight of my own decisions as little as possible. The other mentality just asks for basic justice (read - protection from criminal abuse) and security from government and the freedom to make their own way in life. I come down pretty squarely on the second side. I dealt with some severely abused people some years ago and it became very clear to me that an attitude of victimhood effectively blocked any possibility of healing and moving on.

So I have completely lost patience with victimology. And screaming that the government isn't doing enough to make my life easier is just another form of it. Get over it. I raised five children without subsidized daycare. Yes, it meant I sacrificed a possible career or two, and yes, it meant that we lived at a much lower income than we would have with a smaller family. I didn't whine or complain about that. I figured the children were more important than a fancy house and a status symbol vehicle. And not one of those five kids believes that anybody owes them a handout. Of course, they'll take help if it's offered - I did too - but they won't complain if it isn't. They actually believe they should be prepared to make sacrifices to succeed. Somehow, I think that's a more meaningful contribution to society than most careers would have been.

You can see all this as a digression if you will, but I don't think it is. I'm not getting a cent out of the Conservatives' policies for helping families, and I agree that the help is more symbolic than substantial, but that's OK. I kind of appreciate the gesture anyway. It's refreshing to have the government help out more than one kind of family and give a little recognition to those families that have been overlooked in the past.

And I am one of those who think that popcorn and beer comment was very revealing, although it wasn't news. The message was loud and clear: We know how to run your life better than you do and we are going to make sure you do it our way.

If the Conservatives help start to turn that kind of mentality around, it may yet have been worth voting for them. I'll confess to being a little cynical about the possibility, but one can always hope. I can't see that anybody else is even going to try.

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Not Your Mama said...

Apparently "conservative" in Canada has a very different connotation than in the US.

Our "conservatives" would tell you if you cannot stay home then you shouldn't be having children.

I raised 3 children without any assistance and I living in the US I knew better than to ever expect any. I'd have greatly appreciated an extra $100 a month.

Janet said...

Yup, conservative in the US and in Canada can be quite different. It can actually be quite different depending on which region of Canada you're in too, which always poses a dilemma for federal parties.

The Tories almost had to go that route, because they didn't want to continue the Liberals' subsidization of daycare spots. It was also an effective measure to woo the many young parents who don't use daycare or couldn't get a subsidized spot. Not true Conservative doctrine, but effective politics. The majority of the people screaming at them over this issue wouldn't have voted for them in any event.

Anonymous said...

I guess these anti-daycare people would approve of your raising 5 children without subsidized child care...

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