The future of our country depends on the strength of our families. The Reform Party believes that this fundamental institution should be central to the formation of public policy.

There is a growing consensus that not only have families been forgotten under the decisions of Liberal-Tory policy, but the cumulative effects of disregard and competing special interests have in fact done great harm to them. We are paying dearly and will continue to pay and pay in social consequences if new priorities are not quickly reorganized. Institutions and individual potential will suffer if we allow the foundation to crumble from under them.

What are the consequences? The list is long.

The lines of cause and effect are not always clear on the surface. It is not necessarily obvious to link the growing lines at our nation’s food banks to job killing taxes or high federal debt loads. Yet the links are real. To be sure, sky-rocketing youth unemployment, epidemic teen pregnancy, youth suicide, and growing child poverty can be traced back to misguided or ineffective government programs.

Reform believes the answers lie not with more government programs but with individuals and their families. Rather than entitlement there must be empowerment. With that empowerment comes responsibility and accountability. A new mindset must be established that realizes a dollar in the hands of the taxpayer provides choice and opportunities. Dollars for unnecessary programs in the hand of government rob families of these freedoms.

Reform’s Fresh Start election platform is built upon some basic principles that affect our families in profound ways.

–         The family is our most valuable institution and the heart of our social order. The family is where our most deeply held beliefs are passed on to future generations. It is where social stability and prosperity begins.

–         Key to this is the value of parenting. The family is where children learn trust, love and security, as well as the values and behavior, which will make them good citizens. Parents are responsible for teaching children appropriate social behavior and the difference between right and wrong.

–         Governments should not dictate how loving parents raise their children. The Reform Party affirms that child rearing – including disciplinary choices – is the responsibility of families.

–         Reform supports the following definitions: marriage is a union of a man and a woman as recognized by the state; family is individuals related by blood, marriage or adoption. This definition, of course, includes single-parent families.

–         Domestic violence must be treated distinctly from other crimes. Stronger sanctions to deter such offenses and counseling programs must be implemented.

–         All legislation must be reviewed and developed with its impact on the family kept at the forefront f all considerations. All special funding must be stopped.

–         Families are over-taxed and must be afforded relief from this crushing burden.

With these as the plumline, our goals become clear. We must start with our plan to balance the budget by 1999 by reducing the size of government. That done, we will target tax relief to our overtaxed families.

We’ll remove over one million Canadians from the tax rolls altogether and leave more money in family hands with higher basic and spousal deductions. This, and a universal refundable child care tax credit, will bring equality in the treatment of families, including those who choose to stay home with their children.

Judging by nation-wide reaction, the most disturbing expression of government’s excessive intrusion in our family life is the debate over corporal punishment.

The Mulroney government signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which added greater impetus to remove Section 43, which recognizes parental choice in discipline – from the Criminal Code. The present government, with tax dollars, has funded research and promotion by groups that want Section 43 removed.

Reform argues that Section 43 should remain in the Criminal Code because it protects parental autonomy in child rearing. We support severe consequences in cases of real abuse.

When families break apart, the dissolution process must be as respectable and as smooth as possible for the sake of the children involved. Today, however, this process is dominated by acrimonious court battles that exacerbate existing problems.

The government, in Bill C-41, has attempted to address only one part of the picture, and is being criticized from within its own ranks for not approaching the issue with equity.

Stronger enforcement of child support orders certainly needs to exist. But equally important for children, whose best interest is served by on-going contact with both parents, is stronger enforcement of access orders.

Just as important, however, is reform of the process, replacing the present acrimonious court battles with a process of mandatory mediation. Later this year the House of Commons will debate my motion to consider a Unified Family Court which would provide a context for a mediation process in child custody cases.

Recent cases in Canada have shown the urgent need to address the lack of fetal rights in this country, and they appear to be coalescing broad support for such a response. Reform’s proposals for democratic reform, remind us of the importance placed before each Canadian to do his/her individual part in addressing this issue.

We cannot simply look to politicians to solve this problem for us any more than we should be turning to them to solve our other problems. This issue is too important. Governments that want to keep decision-making power on moral issues limited to themselves have shown, in recent years, their tendency to vote against the will of Canadians on such essential matters.

(This is the second in a series of election-related articles on what political parties offer pro-life voters. Next month’s article will be by Elsie Wayne of the Conservative Party.)