Canada
2 min

BUDGET: Sucking up to nuclear families

What the federal budget says to singles, seniors, childless couples, teens and gays

I’m not ready to apologize: I don’t have a kid.

And I’m sure as hell not going to take a back seat to anyone who has a mewling, puking photo op on his hip.

I’m also not married, and I’m not going to apologize for that either. Nor should anyone have to.

But I’ll be darned, the Canadian government thinks I’m some sort of defective half-of-a-person because I’m not hitched, I don’t plan to be and my partner and I aren’t going to be pumping out little brussel sprouts any time soon. It’s bad enough when friends get a boner over the married life but — the government?

Conservatives love “family.” They love it in part because it seems so wholesome, so value-neutral. But pouring money into families is nothing short of social engineering. With the release of the federal budget Mar 19, the cost of staying single (or getting divorced) is going up.

The less-than-nice side of conservative values says that families, not governments, should be providing social supports. (And if not the family, then the Church. Anyone but the government, really.) The family trope is used to off-load services and supports from the government to the private sphere. By “strengthening the family,” a government can strengthen the social supports of some segments of the population — middle class, heterosexual, procreating — and ignore others. Especially gays.

Citizens with supportive middle-class families get help; the rest get left behind. It’s true that family is a strong safety net, but — and this should be a no-brainer — it’s those that don’t have families that are the most in need of social supports.

Gays — who are particularly vulnerable to a bad home life, lack of family support, isolation and homelessness — along with all other people who live alone or in the margins are left out of the rhetoric of the family.

The Simpsons — the sometime zeitgeist of America’s Generation Yawn — aired an episode in 2004 in which frustrated Springfield residents started a political lobby group called Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples And Teens And Gays Against Parasitic Parents. I can identify. I’m tired of the indefatigable rhetoric of protecting and supporting families ever-present in Conservative political propaganda.

The Mar 19 budget includes $2,000 in tax relief for each child under 18 in the household. Coming on the heels of last year’s child-care handout for kids under six, this constitutes a tax incentive to have kids. Kids are the last thing the government should be promoting!

Thankfully, they’ve avoided the income-splitting path, but PM Stephen Harper has approached the same goal obliquely — rewarding the family, especially a family with kids, especially a family where one parent (read: the woman) stays at home.

This budget is likely to convince some that Harper’s Conservatives have had a liberal change of heart. The Cons are sending the right message to the electorate at the right time, wooing them to win a majority. But decoding “pro-family” rhetoric shows him for who he is: a religious, middle-aged straight dude trying to push his “lifestyle” down our throats.

Harper’s been keeping disliked projects on life support, so expect them to be killed if he gets his majority, including Vancouver’s safe injection site and the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. But that’s small potatoes next to the answers he’s likely to have for aboriginals, women and the CBC if those two words keep getting associated: Conservative and majority.