Income Splitting: So Divisive It’s Splitting the Tories

Why Harper’s going ‘Mad Men’ retro with his $3-billion tax gift to social conservatives.
Andrew Jackson, Tyee


Discouraging women from working outside the home is surely not an appropriate goal for tax policy. But that may just be the motivation behind the Harper government’s plan to introduce “income splitting” for families — an expensive tax gift to traditional families with one breadwinner and a stay at home spouse.

The gift is already proving costly to Conservative party unity. The Harper government’s own finance minister is speaking out against the policy that would deprive the treasury of tax revenues while benefitting mainly big earners.

But Minister Jim Flaherty is up against social conservatives in Tory ranks who built income splitting into the party’s platform….

Pushed from far-right fringe

REAL Women of Canada is an avowedly conservative women’s movement that has led the charge for family income splitting since at least the mid 1990s. They are a profoundly anti-feminist organization that also supports anti-union laws, and oppose public child care, abortion and same-sex marriage.

In a 2012 pamphlet titled “The Importance of the Family,” REAL women argue the case for tax changes to support the traditional family with a stay at home spouse, usually a woman.

“Although there are serious financial disadvantages to single-income families, ie. decreased disposable income, there are, nonetheless, some important emotional and sociological advantages for such families, and, in the long-run, for society. That is, when one partner (either the mother or father) is the sole provider, energy can be directed by the other partner to full-time parenthood. This allows for complete attention towards the nurturing of the children and assists the family by creating values, faith and traditions, which are more readily achieved by this close family arrangement. Healthy families ensure the future of mankind.”

British Columbia-based Focus on the Family Canada has also taken the lead in advocacy of tax measures to support the traditional family. They have links to the major American evangelical Christian organization of the same name and, according to journalist Marci Macdonald, received $1.6 million in services from the larger American organization between 2003 and 2006.

Focus on the Family Canada’s mission is to “encourage and strengthen the Canadian family through education and resources based on Christian principles”; and its guiding principles include the preeminence of evangelism, the permanence of marriage, and the sanctity of human life. Like REAL Women of Canada, Focus on the Family Canada has opposed a publicly delivered national child care program, same-sex marriage, and gay rights in general (including the right of gay couples to adopt children.) It is anti abortion and promotes spanking in the interests of child discipline….

But the social and religious conservatives are less interested in promoting real choices than in promoting a traditional family model in which women are expected to stay at home for extended periods to care for children. That is why they not only call for tax measures to subsidize stay at home parenting, but also oppose government spending on badly needed childcare services.

And that is likely why Finance Minister Flaherty exposed a rift in his Conservative Party when he said of income splitting: “I’m not sure that overall it benefits our society.”

No it doesn’t. Canadian families deserve better.

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