Sunday 15 April 2012

John Barlow and the PC's, More Questions than Answers on Child Support

Last week I attended the all candidates’ forum in Okotoks for the constituency of Highwood. There were the typical questions one might expect about healthcare, education and some very specific to the local issues, like water and land use.

One of the questions though, I thought was a bit odd. I don’t have the exact wording for it as I haven’t been able to find any video or transcript coverage of the forum.  The gist of it was, ‘there are issues with “Maintenance Enforcement” what would you (candidates) do to address this’.

Now my understanding of Maintenance Enforcement is that it has made great strides in terms of collecting support payments, though probably not perfect. So I was very interested in hearing what the candidates had to say.

John Barlow, the Progressive Conservative (PC) candidate started by saying he has been hearing about this a LOT at the doors. I found this a bit odd. I’ve run three times in recent years and not once has this issue come up. I’ve also door knocked Highwood extensively in another provincial campaign and it never came up then either. All the same, I will take his word on it that this has somehow become a major issue in Highwood.

John Barlow went onto explain how child support payments can be very burdensome on those paying. He explained how if the paying parent makes more money, their payments are adjusted upwards as well. He said this can be a disincentive for people to excel or succeed in their careers. If I recall correctly he also stated there should be “caps” on the maximum that would be required to be paid by the supporting parent.

As someone who has both received and paid child support; I found his comments absolutely absurd. The intent of child support is to provide the children with financial position they would have normally benefitted from if the marriage had remained intact. We can look to the Act for the exact wording:

Objectives1. The objectives of these Guidelines are
·         (a) to establish a fair standard of support for children that ensures that they continue to benefit from the financial means of both spouses after separation;
·         (b) to reduce conflict and tension between spouses by making the calculation of child support orders more objective;
·         (c) to improve the efficiency of the legal process by giving courts and spouses guidance in setting the levels of child support orders and encouraging settlement; and
·         (d) to ensure consistent treatment of spouses and children who are in similar circumstances.

I don’t know of any parent who would deny their children any support they are able to provide. The guidelines are regularly reviewed to ensure they are in keeping with economic realities and that the children are receiving proper support. Indeed, that is exactly why it’s a sliding scale based on income. Also I’ve yet to meet anyone who has refused better paying employment or a career opportunity because it would mean paying more child support.

On April 11 asked John Barlow to expand on his comments. I reminded him on April 13. I know the candidates are busy; all the same I tried to illicit a response from him again today.  He has yet to respond.

Where does Mr. Barlow think the cap should be set? Should a parent who makes 120 K per year be paying child support at the same rate as someone making 60 K? 

I also wonder how he sees the Alberta Maintenance Enforcement Program which is Provincially administered, being involved in setting the rates, which as I understand it are Federal jurisdiction.  

Lastly, what does Premier Alison Redford think of his stance on this issue? Will this be pursued by the Progressive Conservatives? 

I will keep you posted if I ever receive a response from Mr. Barlow. 

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