I was one of the last of the post-war baby boomers, so I grew up with the “baby bonus”. I thought it was a silly program then, and even more today. My parents and my friends’ parents certainly enjoyed that little check rolling in every month: it was the days of the “traditional family” when women raised children at home, so this was a token of their “pay”. It wasn’t very much; a few I knew gave it to the kids as “pocket money”. It was eliminated thirty years ago.
Time has changed. When Stephen Harper came to power, plans were in the works for a universal childcare program. He scrapped that idea, which would have created jobs and met needs across the country: for a simple pay-out “child care benefit” which pays parents over a thousand dollars a year per child. Not enough for much on the child-care front, but enough to dwindle the government coffers. So at a time when the global population has reached staggering numbers and we’re destroying the planet, Canada is encouraging everyone, whether or not the have the skills to be parents, to have children. Services like universal childcare would have met real needs across the country and given parents who need help a break. Most recently, in the midst of criticism (The Star, 2013), the government chose to expand the program right before an election, clearly trying to buy votes. But then: hasn’t that what the program’s always been about?
Paying parents a lump sum directly does little other than advancing Harper’s politics (Star Phoenix, 2015),which differ significantly from anything that might be called “progressive”. It upholds his desire to stay in power. It eats away at Canada’s coffers while other, more productive social programs are being starved. And it threatens the well-being of the global environment.