It’s been nearly a year since I’ve taken up pen to comment on politics — the NDP victory here in Alberta and the subsequent Liberal takeover in the October Uprising just left me too disenchanted. But, as the great Canadian nationalist George Grant put it, “When a man truly despairs, he does not write.” Well, despair is a sin, and hope is a theological virtue.
Grant, like me, was wrestling with a despairing feeling that Canada was slipping towards technologized liberalism, and as evidence that he was right, consider three recently policy debates at the federal, provincial, and municipal level that, at first glance, may not seem to have much in common.
One of the most controversial elements of the Conservatives’ fiscal policy last year was their proposal of income splitting, whereby a household where one parent works and the other doesn’t (or at least works much less) receive a tax break relative to a family where both parents are working the same amount. At present, a family where both parents work pays less in taxes than a family where only one does.
Now, just consider that for a minute:
Wouldn’t you expect left-wingers to support a move like that? Aren’t they always insisting that higher income earners ought to be paying more taxes than those who earn less? So why did the Liberals (and NDP outlets like the Broadbent Institute) oppose such a commonsensical move?
Besides some patter about how it doesn’t sufficiently advantage low-income couples (because every tax policy should apparently be one-size-fits-all), the actual cause for their revulsion was obvious: It benefitted and incentivized the traditional nuclear family unit with one primary breadwinner and one stay-at-home parent with children; it could, indeed, encourage cohabitating couples or single parents to get married!
And why would a progressive-minded government want to reward that?
Thus, rather than support a policy which would tax double income-no kids households (surely the usual upper-class demographic they’d normally penalize), the left-wing parties opted instead for their social agenda of moving away the norm of the natural family towards less… traditional arrangements.
Alberta’s NDP recently, and notoriously, proposed their “farm safety” bill, Bill 6, which was met by widespread resistance from family farmers, who felt that this new legislation would severely incapacitate and weaken them.
Yet, in the shadow of this debate, National Post columnist Colby Cosh, commenting on Saskatchewan’s legislation protecting farmland from being gobbled up by foreign investors, referred to this preference for the old model of the family farm as “an antique social order."
“Throughout the world, the fraction of a country’s economy devoted to agriculture has been an inverse indicator of social progress for hundreds of years,” he claims, and calls the preference for the family farm, which he smugly anticipates the disappearance of, “pure chauvinism."
The whole piece dripped with snooty contempt for rural lifestyle, all justified by his dismissive references to his own upbringing on a farm, and CBC Radio devoted a segment of its program “The 180” to seriously entertaining the question, “Does Canada need family farms?”
The disappearance of family farms, of course, would mean that agriculture would be monopolized by those dreaded big, impersonal corporations. It’s easy to see why a National Post writer might be comfortable with that, but it’s a bit more surprising to see the CBC glance approvingly in that direction.
Edmonton Public School Board chair Michael Janz has advocated pulling all funding for private schools. The subsidies to private and charter schools began in the ‘90s, but now, Janz claims, “times have changed. Thirty years ago, there was not the same choice in public schools that there is now.”
Isn’t it nice to know that the state has decided for you that you already have enough choice, parents?
With these subsidies ended, one anticipates two things happening:
Costs for private schools will go up, meaning that only the very rich will end up attending, creating more social stratification and elitism of the rich in this province—and, once again, isn’t this a goal a progressive society wants to move away from?
Given the poor state of Alberta’s economy, though, this perhaps means that fewer people will be able to afford private schools; and the more of them close or are assimilated to the public system, the more uniformity in worldview inculcation we will see in our province’s education.
(And if you want to see the government’s effect on education, watch President Gerald Krispin’s recent interview with the Edmonton Journal, where he cheerfully explains that Concordia University of Edmonton has shed its Christian status because it’s government funded and needs to accept the government’s values.)
What is the common thread here?
Social progressives who are willing to help entrench wealth inequality if it means weakening the power of the traditional family unit, whether in its financial power or its power of choice in education.
The state will help the one per cent and the multinational corporations if it means weakening the family unit along the way. And no wonder, too, for the family is its major competing sphere of power, whereas Big Business and Big Government are always potential allies.
Remember, Karl Marx thought that capitalism was an essential force for dissipating the old strictures of family, community, and religion, clearing the way for communism, and Friedrich Engels wrote a whole book linking the emergence of property to the traditional family unit; you can’t abolish one without the other.
This is why, even if you are of a libertarian streak, you should really be in favour of policies that benefit the traditional family:
It’s the thickest wall between the state and private property that society will ever have to offer.
As Pope Francis states in "Amoris Laetita":
“Families and homes go together. This makes us see how important it is to insist on the rights of the family and not only those of individuals. The family is a good which society cannot do without, and it ought to be protected.”