Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney speaks at the Manning conference in Ottawa on Friday February 28, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Employment Minister Jason Kenney praised income splitting as a benefit for what he called "stable family units," all but cementing the notion the government is once again committed to allowing two-parent families with children to shield some of their income from taxes.
"All of the social research indicates that folks that come from stable families tend to do better in terms of their economic prospects," Kenney said.
The minister of employment and social development was speaking to reporters at the Manning Network Conference, a gathering to discuss social and political issues.
Kenney said his government believes in supporting "families and the choices they make" by eliminating what he called unfairness in the tax code. He didn't explain how single-parent families would be helped by the policy.
His views are often watched closely because he's rumoured to be interested in contending for the leadership of the Conservative Party whenever that position becomes available
Harper seems to agree with Kenney
Kenney's remarks back up what Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Wednesday in the House of Commons: that the government has recommitted itself to its income-splitting promise after indicating just a few weeks ago it might be rethinking the policy.
On Wednesday Harper said, "As I said during the election campaign, we think income splitting would be an excellent policy for Canadian families just as it has been an excellent policy for Canadian seniors."
During the last election campaign, the Conservatives made income splitting a central plank in their platform, promising that as soon as the budget was balanced couples with children under 18 could split up to $50,000 a year of their incomes.
The policy particularly appealed to social conservatives because it would reward families where one parent stays at home.
However, the C.D. Howe Institute pointed out income splitting would do nothing for 85 per cent of families, while the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said the policy would benefit only the wealthiest of families.
Would eat into future budget surplus
Income splitting, which the CCPA calculated would cost $5 billion a year and the C.D. Howe Institute judged would cost $2.7 billion, would eat up a large portion of the future budget surplus.
It might have been for those reasons that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty backed away from the policy in mid-February shortly after he delivered his spring budget. He said income splitting needed a "long, hard analytical look," adding, "I'm just one voice. It benefits some parts of the Canadian population a lot. And other parts of the Canadian population virtually not at all."
Flaherty seemed to be deviating from his own government's pledge, and Harper signalled at the time he might agree with his finance minister.
The prime minister wouldn't even say the phrase "income splitting," only allowing that his government would be "reducing taxes for Canadian families."
That week was followed by a parliamentary break where MPs went back to their ridings and likely heard an earful from some constituents who were banking on the income-splitting bonanza.
These concerns were brought back to Harper and his cabinet when Parliament resumed this week. Income splitting, it would seem, is back as an election promise the Conservatives don't intend to break.
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