On Thursday, Prime Minister Harper officially announced that he will be implementing income-splitting for qualifying Canadians. He also increased Child Tax Benefits for children under six old, and expanded the program to include all families with children younger than 18.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has already promised to revoke income-splitting if elected. This naturally leads Tories to claim that, along with your guns, the Federal Liberals are going to take more of your money, despite promising not to raise taxes. In response to Harper’s announcement, Trudeau seemed ready to admit that the proposal was a good start, but argued “income-splitting is an idea that will give a $2,000 tax cut to families like mine or Mr. Harper’s—that’s not good enough.”
Take a minute to recover from the shock of a politician being selfless for once. By “selfless” I mean promoting his own alternative plan on this; besides merely cancelling income splitting.
Our benevolent Prime Minister also announced an increase to the child fitness benefit from $75 to $150. This benefit can go towards registering youth for athletic activities, but not for other extracurricular activities like dance, music, or theatre. Remember our PM doesn’t like those things, he thinks most Canadians don’t like those things and he’s right since most Canadians can’t afford them. Most Canadians also struggle to pay for hockey equipment and tickets to NHL games. When is the government going to introduce subsidized NHL tickets? In any case the money that the penny pinchers are handing out can only be put towards registration fees; it doesn’t cover equipment (skates, shin pads, uniforms, helmets), not does it go towards expenses surrounding games and competitions. Any one who’s had to take time off work to traipse two hours away to an unheated arena for the sake of their kids knows exactly what that’s like.
While Stephen Harper and his little magic cabinet elves make flashy propositions, they want us to remember that memorable criticism remains from both the right and the left. Even The Ottawa Sun reported that the benefit is less than what Harper promised in the 2011 election, and that the income splitting is capped. Both the Liberals and the NDP explain that only 15% of Canadian families will actually benefit from these new “benefits.” Though Conservatives want to portray those opinions as part of the “loony left,” the right doesn’t offer much more positive reviews. The Conservatives provide former quotes and statistics from former Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, who in turn got them from the CD Howe Institute—a conservative think tank our Prime Minister calls “invaluable.” Even they conclude that income-splitting will cost more than it’s worth.
With a year remaining until the next election, the few Canadians eligible for income-splitting and tax benefits should enjoy it while they still can. Harper may try to integrate the measure into his election platform, but I think Canadians are smart enough to tell when the money isn’t actually in the pockets of the average Canadian.