Why are the Conservatives paying us to buy homes?

By Tom Bateman on Sep 18, 2008

The Conservatives have just announced that if re-elected they will make available to first-time home buyers a tax break to defray the costs of purchasing a home. The tax break is for costs like legal fees, land title transfers, and home inspection costs. Is this responsible? Is this a conservative policy?

Of course the Tories need the large, urban middle class to support them. The electoral logic is clear. But isn’t this too cynical by half?

Is it not the most compelling conservative criticism of other parties that they will shamelessly buy electors’ votes with their own money? Do conservatives not bemoan the increasing complexity of the tax regime, arguing instead for a tax system that is simple, efficient, and minimally disruptive of market decision making?

The tax break scheme is worrisome in another respect. The American economy is sliding into recession and financial torpor because of the temptation of sub-prime mortgage rates offered to home buyers who could not afford the commitments they were making. Lots of blame to go around for that disaster.

In Canada, Stephen Harper proposes a kinder, gentler government-sponsored version of the same thing: encourage people to undertake a long-term financial commitment they would not otherwise make were it not for a little up-front sweetening.

This looks like cynical electioneering run amok. If the Conservatives have a "hidden agenda" they are indeed hiding it very well. I suspect more than a few conservative in Canada would like them to shed some light on that so-called hidden agenda.

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