Photo by Catherine Scott, wikimedia.org

FEDERAL ELECTION

Surrey votes, Election 2019: Parties promising big things for parents

Second in a three-part series on political promises and platforms, heading into the Oct. 21 federal election

What’s in it for my kids and me?

Parents from coast to coast have got to be asking that question as they think upon who they’ll vote for in the Oct. 21 election. And all political parties and their candidates – there are 28 individuals running for office in Surrey alone – are more than eager to set the hook.

Reprising their 2015 election campaign, the Liberals are claiming to champion the needs and wants of Canada’s middle class. In fact, that term is peppered throughout their platform.

This time around, the party is proposing a tax cut of $600 for middle class families while the wealthiest one per cent gets “zero.”

“We will make sure the middle class pay no federal taxes on the first $15,000 they earn,” Liberal campaign literature reads. The Liberals say they’ll accomplish this by raising the Basic Personal Amount by nearly $2,000 for people earning less than $147,000 annually.

The Liberals promise, if re-elected into government, to give families a tax-free benefit of $2,500 every time their job requires them to relocate.

Parents of special needs kids, they also promise, would see a $2,800 increase in support “right away” with $5,664 in total financial support available per annum. This, the Liberals say, would be a boon to some 150,000 Canadian children and their families.

The party says it will build on the Canada Child Benefit by giving up to $1,000 more to parents of children under the age of one year old. If they’re elected, they say, that will mean a 15 per cent boost in funding for these families. Moreover, they’re promising to introduce a 15-week leave for adoptive parents, and say a family of two that’s earning $90,000 and are expecting a child, and who already qualify for Employment Insurance benefits, could expect to get $2,300 more, tax free.

The Liberals also say they’ll create roughly 250,000 “before and after school” childcare spaces for youngsters under age 10.

Ken Hardie, incumbent Liberal MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells, said the average middle-income and lower-income family is better off under the Liberals by about $2,000 with their approach to the child benefit because it targeted people who need a break, “whereas the Conservatives were sending cheques to millionaires, and made it tax free.”

“First and foremost, on a broad-brush level, what we’ve done is not offer tax credits, because tax credits tend to not deliver many benefits to the people who actually need them,” Hardie said. “A good example is the low-income tax credit that the Conservatives wanted to give – it actually wasn’t a tax credit, it was a tax cut for the lowest income bracket. They wanted to reduce it from 15 per cent to 13.5 per cent, but the fact is for somebody earning under $40,000 a year that would be a saving of less than $20, but the way our tax system works, it would deliver savings of $800 a year for people making over $250,000. Tax credits are not a very good way to target benefits.”

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Ken Hardie, Liberal MP candidate for Fleetwood-Port Kells

The Liberals, he said, want to increase the basic personal tax exemption to $15,000. “Whereas the Conservative plan would lift something like 15,000 people out of poverty, the Liberal plan would lift over 60,000 people out of poverty. It’s better targeted, it’s better designed.”

For their part, the Conservatives also pledge more tax relief and say they’ll reverse Trudeau’s cancellation of Harper-government tax credits that helped parents pay for their children’s arts and fitness programs. If elected to government, the Conservatives say, they’ll bring in a Children’s Fitness Tax Credit that would allow parents to claim up to $1,000 per child each year for costs related to fitness or sports activities and make the credit refundable “so low-income Canadians benefit most.

The Tories also promise that parents of children with disabilities would be able to claim $500 more per child, per year. Moreover, they say a Conservative government would bring in a Children’s Arts and Learning Tax Credit that would allow parents to claim up to $500 for each child for costs related to arts and educational activities and parents of children with disabilities would be able to claim up to $1,000 per child each year.

Shinder Purewal, Conservative Candidate MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells, noted the Liberals had previously dismissed the Canada Child Benefit as “beer and popcorn money.”

Asked how the Tories’ plan for families and children is better than that of their rivals, Purewal replied, “The main difference is, we’re serious.”

“Above all, there is a Great Wall of China between the words and deeds of Justin Trudeau,” he said. “What we promise will be delivered. Justin Trudeau will say anything to get elected.”

Purewal also said that, if elected to government, the Conservatives would boost the federal contribution to Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) to 30 per cent from the current 20 per cent.

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Shinder Purewal, Conservative MP candidate for Fleetwood-Port Kells

Meantime, the Green Party says, if elected into government, it would appoint a federal Children’s Advocate to ensure their rights are protected and would also immediately ramp up federal child care funding to achieve an international benchmark of at least one per cent of GDP annually, adding an additional $1 billion each year until this benchmark is reached with a “mature” early learning and child-care system. They say they would also eliminate the GST on all construction costs related to child-care spaces.

John Werring, Green Party MP candidate for Surrey Centre, told the Now-Leader that the Green’s “key issue” is affordability.

“People are spending so much money on taxes and paying for health care, pharmaceuticals, added costs over and above their rent, and can’t even make basic rent,” he said. “And so what we want to do is bring in policies that will actually bring those people out of poverty so that they will at least have some money in their pocket to pay for the basic necessities in life.”

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John Werring, Green Party MP candidate for Surrey Centre

How would the Greens fund this?

Werring said it would come out of subsidies that big oil, mining and forest product companies are receiving from government.

He said there’s billions of dollars that could be recovered “to use to pay for the very basic necessities of life for the rest of the people.”

“It really wouldn’t affect their profitability, and their ability to do business,” he argued. “What the corporations in Canada do, when we try to regulate them, is they threaten to leave. They say, ‘Oh, if you’re going do that to us, we’re going to close down, we’re going to take our jobs elsewhere.’ I don’t believe that. They want our oil and gas, they want our resources, and if they want those resources, then they should pay for them. There’s no way on God’s green earth that a country like Canada, with the resources that we have – in timber, minerals, oil and gas – should have anybody living on the streets in poverty.

“We’re going to change politics, to make sure people are listening,” Werring said.

The NDP notes that Canada is the sole wealthy country in the world that has a universal health care system but lacks universal prescription coverage, with the result being that millions of families cannot afford to buy the medicine they need because they have no employer-provided benefits. The party, if it were to form government, pledges to launch a universal pharmacare program, and create a “Denticare” plan that would save a family of four, with a household income up to $70,000, at least $1,240 annually if they were to have recommended dental exams, cleanings, and if each child was treated for a single cavity. The NDP say they would also establish by 2030 a universal child care and early learning system and with a $10 billion investment create 500,000 affordable child care spaces within four years of assuming power.

“We’ll actually keep our promises,” Sarjit Saran, NDP MP candidate for Surrey Centre, told the Now-Leader. “The Liberals and Conservatives have gone back and forth governing this country and look at the results: Life has become less and less affordable for hard-working Canadians and people are just struggling to stay afloat with their monthly bills.”

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Sarjit Saran, NDP MP candidate for Surrey Centre

“We can save families hundreds of dollars a month, putting money back into their pockets, by investing in programs and services that makes life more affordable for them,” Saran said. “Whether it’s investing with provinces and territories to make childcare more affordable; instituting a National School Nutrition Program to ensure your kids are getting healthy meals at schools; or putting an end to governments profiting from your children’s post secondary loans, an NDP government would be in it for you.”

The People’s Party of Canada has not yet released a plan specific to families with children.

“Our platform puts more money back into people’s pockets, so that their lives, they can have a little bit more control over what they’re doing, and they’re more free to take care of themselves. So that’s basically our approach to all of that,” said Mike Poulin,the PPC MP candidate for Fleetwood-Port Kells.

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Mike Poulin, People’s Party of Canada MP candidate for Fleetwood-Port Kells

The other parties, Poulin said, are “running around” every day “promising something else that’s going to cost money, and eventually, that’s higher taxes.

“So that takes money out of the households. Out of mothers and fathers, that they can spend on their kids.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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Next up: What’s in it for seniors?

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