Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who’s developing a penchant for ignoring talking points, openly doubted the effectiveness of a Conservative campaign promise from 2011. Flaherty mused about whether or not income splitting, one of the goodies the Tories said they’d implement when they balanced the federal budget, was worth the cost.
Income splitting is a measure that, if enacted, would allow couples to transfer a certain amount of income from one to another in order to alleviate their income tax bills. Earlier this week, Flaherty cracked open a wedge in the Conservative caucus with four sentences. Income splitting “is an interesting idea,” he said. “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.”
Think tanks tend to agree with Flaherty’s analysis. The left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives claims 86 per cent of Canadian benefits wouldn’t benefit at all from income splitting. That’s consistent with Flaherty’s broad point.
Today, NDP Deputy Leader Megan Leslie led Question Period with a question about Tory plans to implement the measure, and she cited the CCPA’s numbers—a question that never would have come to light had Flaherty not opened his mouth. In any case, the finance minister rose and chose not to address Leslie’s particular query. Instead, he waxed on about the Conservative low-tax agenda.
Later, Liberal MP Scott Brison quoted the same CCPA statistic and more or less repeated Leslie’s words. Flaherty’s response? “When I contemplate policies, I rarely think of the Liberal Party.” Ha ha, funny quip. But awkward given that the finance minister’s assessment of income splitting jibes with not only the Liberals, but also the NDP. The wedge deepens.