People love a scandal in politics. So much so that they can turn a small thing in to a runaway tale of hypocrisy and dirty politics that takes over the media for days on end.
This week, it was what shall be known as Nannygate.
In case you haven’t heard, leagues of Canadians are demanding answers after the official opposition called foul on our new Prime Minister when two nannies were added to his household staff.
Because Trudeau campaigned on promises of getting rid of the income-splitting tax benefit and the Universal Child Care Benefit because they padded the pocket of wealthy families in Canada but didn’t do their job of supporting the low income families who needed the extra boost to make ends meet, many people feel that he is abusing the system. You know, since he’s wealthy and can afford to pay for the childcare he said the wealthy should pay for themselves.
I’m not going to lie. This is one I personally find a little ridiculous.
First, Trudeau is not funneling tax payer money out of the system and in to his nannies’ pockets. As part of the job, as part of the package, 24 Sussex is included. And it comes with a household budget. Out of this budget, they house employs others as well including security personnel, house cleaners, chefs and more. With a Prime Minister who has young children and a demanding travel and work schedule (for both him and his wife), it only makes sense that a nanny is part of their lifestyle now. We all get packages and benefits as part of our jobs, and they vary differently. Sure, most of us don’t get a nanny (but I knew quite a few who got daycare in larger centres where large companies could have one of their own). But then again, most of us don’t get a house to live in either.
More alarming in this who debacle is how our own conceptions of gender roles is affecting our views. Many of the comments popping up have to do with Trudeau’s wife and how she should be home and raising these kids and making them meals and keeping the house in order while her husband goes off to do a very important job.
Why is it all on her? Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau is a pretty accomplished woman in her own right. She’s worked in the entertainment industry for some time as a journalist, a radio host and a TV personality. And she used her status for a whole host of Charity work which, in case you didn’t know, largely focuses on women’s rights.
Not to mention that “Prime Minister’s Wife” is a fairly substantial job on its own. She has many expectations on her from travel to events and more, and it will take up a lot of her time and energy without pay or acknowledgement.
Really, their life is different now. The kids have traded bikes in for RCMP-escorted vehicles. Summer vacation for meeting international dignitaries. Dad home every night to scheduling time with them when they can. They left normal behind last month and I can get a nanny coming on board with that transition.
While I do understand that the stance many are taking is that it is hypocritical that he has a nanny while so many low-income families are still struggling to make ends meet between childcare, rent and groceries, I also believe that Trudeau still has a big star over this issue. He’s been in office officially for about a month. Instead of berating him for getting the childcare he needs to lead this country without having to worry about his kids, let’s focus on the real issue at hand and keep offering insight on how the childcare issue can be addressed most effectively.
Cancelling the UCCB and introducing a new one that uses income level as the measure of who should get childcare benefit sounds great in theory, but does it really work? Trudeau once said “When it comes to child benefits, fair doesn’t mean giving everyone the same thing, it means giving people what they need.” And the fact is that the measure of that can’t be done on income alone.
For example, we if you compare Fort St. John with a similar sized city in the Maritimes, you’ll find great disparity. We live in a city where the cost of living is crippling to many families. Affordable housing, food security and quality childcare that we can pay for and still pay our bills are all issues that face families here every day. So despite the fact that a family may bring home $100K a year, they may still be struggling more to make ends meet than the family on the other side of the family who makes half as much but gets taxed less and has access to affordable housing and groceries.
Stay-at-home parents like myself may not have to pay for childcare, but these childcare benefits help our single-income family make ends meet each month in lieu of the income that we give up by having a parent stay at home to raise our children.
There is never going to be a perfect solution, but I hope that the Prime Minister can really utilize all those around him (from cabinet ministers to regular joes) to understand the issues Canadian families face and find a solution that better helps more people.
And while he’s busy doing that, I’m not going to pick on him or his wife for the nanny that’s making their time free enough to do so.
Brianne Zwambag is a full-time boo-boo healer, snack artist, janitor, referee, master storyteller and child stylist in Fort St. John, B.C. who sometimes gets a chance to sit down and write about life, mommyhood and the issues that surround it.