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Four Ways Ottawa Can Improve Family Policy


May 11, 2023

OTTAWA, ON – Cardus is calling on the federal government to adopt a cohesive, consistent, strategic approach to family policy on a national level. In Envisioning a Federal Family-Formation Policy Framework for Canada, author Peter Jon Mitchell notes that leaders from all parties need to begin by acknowledging and addressing the real challenges Canadian families face:

  • Census data show that Canadian families are shrinking and more Canadians are living alone.
  • The average age at first marriage is increasing, as is the average age for bearing children.
  • The national fertility rate hit a historic low of 1.4 in 2020, well below replacement level as half of Canadian women are having fewer children than they desire through their lifetimes.

In response to these challenges, Envisioning a Federal Family-Formation Policy Framework for Canada calls for two broad goals:

  • Increasing opportunities for Canadians who desire to form partnerships and marriages, and to raise children.
  • Reducing barriers to marriage and partnership, and to childbearing and childrearing.

Practically, the federal response to these challenges would include these four steps:

  • Recognising the role of family structure in policies addressing economic inequality
  • Reducing disincentives to marriage within federal policy, such as benefits based on household income.
  • Supporting family units within the tax code since families function as economic units, not as a collection of individuals
  • Exploring ways to enhance federal adoption benefits to better facilitate adoption

“When was the last you heard a politician—any politician—discussing family policy as family policy?” asks Mitchell, family program director at Cardus. “Whether it’s child care, family benefits, or parental leave, most leaders frame their policies in terms of economics, affordability, or even personal rights. The time to change that approach is long overdue.”

Read Envisioning a Federal Family-Formation Policy Framework for Canada on the Cardus website.

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