Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 25, 2015
There is an old adage that states a person should not look a gift horse in the mouth. Basics of that principle reflect that when one is given a gift (i.e., the horse), clear of any encumbrances, they should happily receive it and graciously thank the giver.
It is a simple concept and a lesson most of us were taught from the time we were little. It is one of many simple rules to live by, but is one that is tested when politics and elections come into play.
This past week saw the single largest payouts to Canadians in our country’s history, a “Christmas in July” as Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre quipped when speaking about the payment. A record $3 billion was given back to parents through the modification of the child care benefit program. The Universal Child Care Benefit is nothing new to Canadians as it has been around for a while now; previously it existed under the old child tax credit system.
What did change over that time is the nature in which the funds are dispersed and how, through our taxation system, the UCCB is taxable income for everyday Canadians.
Back to that gift horse. The average payout for a child under six years of age was $520 with the payout for a child six and older being $420. The payout was not impacted at all by a person’s income and was a one-time deal. Changes were made to monthly allotments, but at the same time that money was taxable income.
Whether we like it or not, the UCCB looks like one of many cards at play this election will be our children.
As platforms are rolled out, we see all three of the major parties’ planks as they pertain to child care and benefits. From the Conservative UCCB payout, which was very opportune in its timing, to the NDP’s affordable child care plan, or the Liberals’ proposed tax-free Canadian child benefit program, each has some ups and downs.
Stacked against each other, the Liberal plan may actually put the most money in Canadians’ pockets long term. The problem is if polling holds true, it may never see the light of day.
The Liberals are attempting to place themselves back in the spotlight with their child benefit plan. As it stands, the Liberals would scrap the taxable UCCB plan and replace it with a “more generous” payment, tax-free to families they feel need it the most. This plan would see higher income earners weaned off to a point that when combined household income eclipsed $200,000, they would no longer qualify for the rebate program.
It is a bit of a gamble, but it’s thought that only 15 per cent of the families in Canada would actually lose their rebate altogether, coincidentally Trudeau’s family included. If spent properly, the resulting outcome is said to have the potential to lift more than 300,000 Canadian youth out of poverty immediately.
This was purely a political play that the Liberals needed to make in the hopes it will get them back in the press. In recent weeks the NDP has put distance between itself and the Liberals so the timing was opportune.
As for the NDP, there is some fine print on both its child-care and minimum wage plans that are remiss from the bigger picture. One of the party’s biggest stimulus packages ahead of the next election was the concept of $15 per day child care.
In theory the party would make life more affordable while allowing parents to drive the economy by further contributing to the workforce. The problem with this strategy is in the first full year of a possible NDP mandate, it is believed only five to 10 per cent of available child-care spots would be funded under the plan. A full eight years into it, Canadians would only see 50 per cent of the spots funded at their $15 per day rate. That’s a far cry from the splash many in this country thought would be implemented Day 1 in a hypothetical Tom Mulcair government.
Lastly to the Conservatives; for what it’s worth, they did put more money back in Canadians’ pockets. It will be taxable come next spring, but for the time being a gesture like this with our tax dollars may be exactly what the Harper Conservatives ordered.
Like a “Christmas in July” you might say, what that tax bill looks like next April will be the true test of this “gift horse” meant to benefit Canadians.