Last week, the new Canada Child Benefit (CCB) was finally rolled out, with direct deposits or cheques given to families nationwide. It was a surprise to no one... or at least it shouldn't have been. Trudeau campaigned on it, online calculators have been making the social media rounds for months, and news outlets have been intermittently reminding us that it was coming.
By way of background, this new benefit is meant to "lift some 315,000 Canadian children out of poverty" by adding to household income, tax-free, for those most in need. It is based on Adjusted Family Net Income, a line item on our tax returns (which doesn't allow for a lot of nuance, I'll concede, but still seems more fair than not). It replaced the previous taxable, universal benefit ushered in by the Conservatives. You're probably familiar with the CCB. Most people, especially parents and guardians, are.
Let me now preface what I'm about to say with this: my household saw a reduced benefit. Not a crazy reduction, but a reduction nonetheless. And no, I was not surprised. In fact, I was happy -- for two reasons.
First, I was happy because this new benefit, albeit smaller, is now tax-free, so no guessing on how much will actually remain "in our pockets" (as an aside, is anyone else growing weary of this capitalist expression?).
Second, and frankly more important, I was happy because this reduced benefit means that we take home an income so great that we likely don't need the CCB. This benefit, and our government, now recognize the important difference between equity and equality. We're not a household really in need, and isn't that the point?
The new Canada Child Benefit is meant to be fair and just, and to help those who really need it, those struggling with real poverty.
Most people seem to get this. But last week, when parents across Canada received their benefit -- or didn't, it became glaringly obvious that many people still don't understand. Social media became a sounding board for unfounded complaints, and parents seemed emboldened to say things that were, at best, misguided, and, at worst, downright bigoted, dripping with unstated privilege, and wrong.
While I'm aware that the Internet gives people a platform for things they would never, ever say in real life, it was shocking to see the sheer number of comments that began with, "I believe in helping those in need, but..." But nothing. That sentence ends with the word "need." There is no place for flimsy arguments.
The new Canada Child Benefit is meant to be fair and just, and to help those who really need it, those struggling with real poverty. Only time will tell if it hits the mark, as reports have already surfaced that Indigenous children are more likely to miss out on this benefit because it is based on income reported on tax returns, which is obviously highly problematic.
But for those of us with children whose benefit was reduced or even eliminated, I hope you can rest assured that this is money that may mean the difference between shoes and no shoes, rent or homelessness, food or no food. And these desperate choices -- choices many of us are lucky enough to not have to make -- are more important than just "feeling a little pinch."
It can be sad to get money and then to not get money. I'll admit to that. I get what it's like to live in an expensive Canadian city and even then pay more in daycare for two children than I do in rent. The daily expenses of child-rearing make it tempting to substitute one's perception of need for actual need. I catch myself making privileged statements all the damn time. But that doesn't mean that I'm right. I have choices, and exercise my right to make them every day. And chances are if your CCB was reduced, you have these choices, too.
When it comes down to it, social justice, at its best, happens when we all participate. When NIMBYism isn't allowed to proliferate. When we are comfortable making real and tangible sacrifices for the greater good (universal daycare strategy, anyone?).
Because in the end, life is about choices -- but only when you're lucky enough to have them.
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