2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

by Samantha Lucy

Bribes shouldn’t win elections

Millions of Canadian parents opened their mailboxes this week to find government cheques worth between $400–500 per child. The money is part of the Harper government’s expanded universal child-care benefit (UCCB) program.

UCCB payment amounts were increased by the Conservatives on January 1, 2015. The first payments, however, are just being sent out. This means that about half a year’s worth of UCCB payments have accumulated into a lump sum and are finding their way into Canadian bank accounts.

Not so coincidentally, Canada is just under three months away from a federal election. It’s clear the Conservatives are hoping the cash will help sway voters. Opposition parties and various pundits have called it a “vote-buying scheme.”

And it might be working. A recent poll saw the Conservatives pick up around seven to eight percentage points, more than enough to swing an election in their favour.

These delayed UCCB payments are clearly less about helping families and more about helping the Tories win seats on October 19. The best evidence for this is that the UCCB is a taxable benefit. Most of that money will need to be repaid at tax time — but that’s well after the election.

According to the Canadian Press, 17 of the 20 ridings that benefit most from the boosted UCCB already lean Conservative. But UCCB payments aren’t the only way the Tories are targeting the ridings they need to retain if they hope to once again form government in the fall.

Last week, Conservative minister Jason Kenney announced $1.5 billion in funding for Calgary’s new LRT line. It’s good that the government is spending money on infrastructure, and Calgary desperately needs an improved transit system. However, the timing of the announcement and the areas affected — all Conservative-held ridings — make it clear that the pledge is more about what happens in October than improving the nation’s infrastructure.

After spending very little on infrastructure for years, Conservative ministers all around the country are now announcing new projects. The Globe and Mail analyzed the Harper government’s recent infrastructure announcements and found that 83 per cent of the planned projects are in Conservative-held ridings.

Infrastructure decisions should be based on what areas of the country need it the most, not the political leanings of individual ridings. The logical long-term outcome of the Conservatives’ election tactics is crumbling infrastructure in left-leaning areas of the country and shiny new LRT lines in right-wing strongholds like Calgary.

The UCCB payments are equally cynical. Showering Canadians with cash shortly before an election through a taxable child-care benefit has little to do with helping Canadians shoulder the cost of raising children and everything to do with getting re-elected.

The extra money will certainly be nice for parents raising children, just as new infrastructure funding will make those Conservative ridings better places to live. But voters should consider whether they want a government whose priorities are so heavily skewed towards retaining their grip on power.

And there are certainly more efficient ways to help parents with child-care than returning their tax dollars to them in the form of benefit cheques only to claw most of that money back again next tax season.

Canadians need to think about the kind of government they want. The choice is between a government that makes budget decisions based on where funding is needed, or one that funnels billions of dollars to the voters they need to keep their government pensions.

Fabian Mayer, Gauntlet Editorial Board


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