Tuesday, December 13, 2005

'Popcorn and beer' shot a reminder of Liberal contempt

VICTORIA - I bet hundreds of candidates from all parties danced a little jig as Scott Reid swung in the wind after his ‘popcorn and beer’ comment.
Reid is Paul Martin’s communications director, a job that makes him immensely important to about 150 people in Ottawa. He’s also one of those party power guys who send candidates a big binder of official talking points and demand they stick to the script, as if winning a nomination means candidates lose their minds.
Reid stepped out of the backrooms and into the TV studios on the weekend, on one of those panels where political partisans snipe at each other.
He took aim at Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s promise of $1,200 a year in child care tax credits, a plan that Harper says would give parents a choice in child care. Maybe a day care centre, maybe a subsidy to help a mom stay at home.
But Reid didn’t pick on Harper. He picked on parents.
"Children need care that is regulated, safe and secure and that's what we're building here. Don't give people $25 to blow on beer and popcorn,” he said on TV. “Give them child-care spaces that work."
It’s been a while since my children were that age, but that’s how I remember myself - desperate for popcorn, and beer, and more popcorn, even if it meant locking Rebecca and Sam in the basement for a week or two.
Partly, Reid just sounds stupid. Lord knows, we’ve all sounded stupid.
But the comments got so much attention because they confirm something a lot of voters have suspected about the people at the top of the Liberal heap. They don’t really like us, or trust us. They believe they are much smarter, and wiser. They really think that given a choice you would spend your money on beer and popcorn, and send your toddler off to set pins in some throwback bowling alley.
That starting point - that we’re too clueless or irresponsible to do the right thing - has broader implications. Why let Canadians make other choices, or provide too much information, when the Liberal party knows best?
Perhaps that’s why Reid didn’t focus on the real problems with the Conservatives’ child care proposal.
Harper’s plan would give every family $1,200 a year for each child under six, and let them decide how to use it - for licensed child care, or a babysitter or to help a parent afford to stay home. The money would be taxed, but it could be claimed as income by the lowest earning parent in the household.
The plan fails the common sense test. A family with an annual income over $1 million would get the same grant as a single parent earning $20,000. That’s a waste of scarce tax dollars.
The aim should be to spend money where it makes a difference, and sending cheques to the affluent doesn’t. Their children have the advantages that give them a headstart in life, and their parents can afford the care that’s required.
The real payback - morally and economically - would come from spending on the children who need the help. Who without it, will start school at a disadvantage so great they may never recover. Don’t send their parents $100 a month; spend what it takes to give those children a chance.
The Liberal and NDP plans are similarly unfocused. They plan to continue spending to create licensed child care spaces, without any clear method of ensuring that children who most need support are the priority. (The NDP would increase the child tax credit to help low-income families get child care.)
The details of all three plans will probably remain bit sketchy for most busy Canadians.
But they will remember that Paul Martin’s party thinks they’re too stupid and irresponsible to handle $1,200 a year in child care funding, and would choose popcorn and beer over the future of their children.
Footnote: The popcorn and beer comment wasn’t a slip of the tongue. It reflected Liberal strategy. Reid made the comment on a CBC political show. Liberal strategist John Duffy used the same words on CTV talk show the same day, showing the party brains had considered the attack a good idea.


Anonymous said...

Why is it that when the folks struggling really hard to get along are typecast as ones who would spend some extra cash on beer or junk food.

We lived in a co operative in the down town east side. We paid market rent, many other were subsidized. That's the way it's supposed to work. It gave some of those single parents a hand up in sorting out their lives. I don't recall any of the swilling beer. Their kids came first, just like any other parents we knew.

Shame on the Liberals for making such comments to counter the not so swift ideas of Harper.
Get some money into subsidized housing,day care comes up every election and huge sums are bandied about only to disappear post election day. Give the folks a hand up and watch them grow. Don't shit on themwhen they have next to nothing. My God the next thing will be to bring back the idea that welfare cheque recipients should bebarred from a place selling beer or cigarettes. If I recallthe present PM manages to shift his companies off shore so as not to pay taxes on them. Corporate welfare bums was a word used by David Lewis, years ago. It still fits.

Anonymous said...

"Shame on the Liberals for making such comments to counter the not so swift ideas of Harper"

Look, this comment was made by one Liberal who's known for his rather cutting remarks. To attribute it to the whole party is unfair.

" Corporate welfare bums was a word used by David Lewis, years ago. It still fits."

I agree with you on this one...