Wednesday, November 25, 1998Canadians want government to do more to help families cope
FEELING THE PRESSURES
Public wants Ottawa to play a bigger role, says new poll
By Chris Cobb
Canadians want their governments to ease pressure on working parents and focus more policy on helping families, a new poll suggests.
The Southam News-COMPAS poll found that 81% of Canadians want governments to make families the cornerstone of a wide range of policies, including taxation, marriage laws and financial help for elderly parents.
Asked whether governments should change tax laws so young families could have one parent afford to stay home, 82% said it should be a priority. There was equal enthusiasm for joint income tart returns that would allow couples to pay lower taxes.
Canadians are looking for government help, suggests the poll, because they say their lives are emotionally and financially strained by excessive work, job uncertainty and related pressures.
Respondents to the poll were asked: "Governments deal with a variety of issues. How much emphasis should governments place on creating the financial and other conditions that make it easier for families with children to stay together?"
The 81% who agreed that government should put more emphasis on family was evenly split between men and women. Quebecers were more emphatic on this point than other Canadians.
Canadians also want government to take a more practical and direct role in helping families stay together. More than 60% of respondents favour compulsory pre-marriage courses, and 50% would favour a tougher divorce process for parents. Women seem keener on pre-nuptial preparation than men, but more men favour making divorces tougher to get.
Asked what degree of priority government should place on pre-wedding courses, 28% of women said "very high" compared with 20% of men. Tougher divorce was placed on the high priority list by 20% of men but only 11% of women.
Canadians also see inequity in the divorce system and want a stricter enforcement of the law for both mothers and fathers, in order to improve the lot of the children of divorced parents. Three quarters of respondents said governments should ensure that the highest income earner pay support. There was only a small difference between women (44%) and men (37%) who said this should be a top priority.
The vast majority of Canadians say fathers and children get a raw deal in divorce courts, and want stricter punishment for custodial parents who deny legal access to tile non-custodial parent.
The poll was conducted in conjunction with the National Foundation for Family Research and Education (NFFRE) between Oct. 29-30. Five hundred Canadians were interviewed. Samples of that size are considered accurate, plus or minus 4.5%, 19 times out of 20.
Pollster Conrad Winn said Canadians are telling politicians that family life is a missing link in government policy.
"They are saying government had better start paying attention," said Mr. Winn. "It's a widespread common-sense consensus that effective, well put-together children need effective, well put together families. It's also an indication that those in the modern age who have been saying stable family life doesn't matter, are a spent force.
But Canadians aren't asking government to micro-manage their lives, added Mr. Winn. Nor is it surprising, he said, that when so many Canadians are voting for smaller government they should be turning to government for help.
"We have a culture where we have always asked government to solve problems we can't sole ourselves," he said. "Canadians realize that government can have an enormous impact on families, especially through tax policy. Lighter tax burdens can help families stay together"
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