A Liberal MP is working to give relief to parents who forgo careers to stay at home with their children.

MP Paul Szabo (Mississagua South), is the chairperson of a Liberal caucus committee exploring ways to address the issue of unpaid work in the home. He says parents who stay at home to take care of preschool children are entitled to equal treatment. Szabo wants to give them a direct benefit of $50 a week, to help close the gap created by the discriminatory provisions of the Income Tax Act. Under the Act, two-income families can claim up to $7,000 for each child in day care.

Szabo, a long-time advocate of pro-family legislation, has introduced a number of bills, motions, and petitions in the past few years to help working families.

He submitted a petition to the House of Commons earlier this year noting that “managing a family home and caring for preschool children is an honourable profession which has not been recognized for its valuePaul Szaboto our society.” Szabo said he wants to correct the fact that the “Income Tax Act does not take into account the real cost of raising children.”

In 1996, Szabo introduced a private member’s motion that said the “Income Tax Act discriminates against families that provide care in the home to preschool children, the chronically ill, the disabled and the aged.” Even though it passed, as a motion it did not require action on the part of the government.

Having met opposition to ameliorating the injustices of the Income Tax Act, Szabo is now attempting to get around the problem through the direct benefit idea.

He said the rewards of encouraging a parent to stay at home include opening badly needed day care spaces, opening up jobs for the unemployed, reducing family stress, and “recognizing the value of work in the home.” The policy would allow “optimum flexibility” in the options a family has, by removing disincentives for having a parent stay at home.

Szabo cited statistics indicating that only a minority of preschool children are cared for by a parent at home full-time. A 1996 Angus Reid survey showed 70 per cent of working parents with children in day care would choose to have one parent remain at home if they felt they could.