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Trespassers will be elected Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 08 November 2004

For some strange reason, humans will go to almost any length to get something for nothing. It's ignoble and often ridiculous. Yet it seems to have become the Canadian Way.

Give me something for nothing--the demand of every panhandler and politician.

For several decades now, this has been the main theme of federal-provincial politics, and it's getting worse.

 In September Ottawa wanted to set the terms to "save medicare" without paying much of the cost, and the provinces, like teenagers, wanted Ottawa's money without any of Ottawa's rules.

Last month it was National Equalization. Canada's seven "want-more" provinces wanted more money for social services without doing anything to earn it.

Last week it was National Babysitting--or if you prefer, "child care."

On Tuesday, the ten provincial ministers responsible for babysitting were in parley with the new federal babysitting minister, old-time hockey star Ken Dryden.

As ever, there were two items on the provincial agenda. Item one, complain about federal jurisdictional encroachment. Item two, sit up and beg for federal dollars.

This revolting routine is so old it's almost not news any more.

Although child care is entirely a provincial responsibility under the Constitution, the Martin government has committed $1 billion a year to it, and the various provincial ministers have all been furiously poking their calculators to figure out how much they'll get for free.

Next year Alberta is hoping for $100 million, B.C. for $137 million, Manitoba $37 million, and Saskatchewan $30 million.

Like kids with a Sears catalogue three weeks before Christmas, the whole daycare discussion was about entitlements, not responsibility.

I'll bet that not one politician in that room asked the obvious question, "Whose responsibility is it to raise children?"

Obviously, the responsibility belongs neither to Ottawa nor to provinces but to parents. And "responsibility" includes paying the bills.

But no politician wins elections by promising to respect people's responsibilities. They never say, "Look, life's rough sometimes, but your kids are your problem, not the government's."

Elections are won by offering people "help" whether they need it or not. That's supposed to show how much you care about them. The fact that it weakens the family, the economy and the government is beside the point.

When my kids were preschoolers and my wife was still working, like most other parents we settled them with a friend for $20 a day in cash. She needed the money to stay home with her own kids.

We had tried the big licensed professional daycares, but it felt a bit too much like leaving them in a zoo, not a home, and they hated it.

Of course, Ottawa prefers to develop the zoo model, because it generates tax-paying union jobs, university courses, and government-funded social advocacy groups to identify problems in need of government solutions.

It's of no help to politicians if people look after their own families and communities. It leaves the government no role.

That's why provincial jurisdictional objections to Ottawa demanding "accountability" and "national standards" in exchange for federal cash sound so phony. They ARE phony. Neither level of government has any valid business funding daycare. They're both trespassing, and they know it.

And like burglars who bump into each other in the same house at night, they decide to be sensible and split the loot.

- Link Byfield

Link Byfield is chairman of the Edmonton-based Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, and an Alberta senator-elect.
 
"Just Between Us" is a feature service of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. The purpose of the Citizens Centre is to enhance freedom and democracy by enabling ordinary citizens to become active and effective on important issues outside the normal processes of party politics.





 
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