O'Toole makes pitch to working parents with Tories' 'flexible' child-care plan

·3 min read

RUSSELL, Ont. — Erin O'Toole repeated his plan on Tuesday to scrap Liberal child-care deals signed with provinces in favour of a refundable tax credit, saying the Conservative approach will give a bigger boost to lower-income Canadians.

At a campaign event on the rural outskirts of Ottawa, the Tory leader said his proposal would benefit financially precarious Canadians the most by allowing up to $6,000 of their annual child-care expenses to be reimbursed.

"We can't, after six years of inaction by Mr. Trudeau, leave families hanging for another five years," O'Toole said.

Licensed daycare centres — to which federal funding under the Liberal deals would be exclusively directed — operate largely from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those hours, the Tories say, leave out parents on shift work or in the gig economy.

Experts, however, say that while the Tory tax credit could have some immediate impacts, the $2.6-billion price tag is less than the size of the Liberal agreements and fails to address the shortage of spaces. But O'Toole on Tuesday rejected that criticism.

"Our plan will help all families immediately, and will create places, and will give families the flexibility to come up with what works for them best immediately," he said. "In most parts of the country, lower-income families will have all of their costs covered."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has touted Quebec's model — which costs $8.50 a day for families able to get a spot — as an example the rest of Canada should follow. His government introduced a $30-billion national daycare program in its April budget that would cut fees down to an average of $10 a day within five years, signing agreements with eight premiers in the last few months.

The Liberals said earlier this month the Conservatives would make "a massive 80 per cent cut to our Canada-wide child-care system."

"They would replace it with a tax credit — and only 6,600 families out of 1.5 million families across the country would receive the full value of it," the Liberal party said in a statement.

Under the Conservative proposal, parents would be able to claim up to $8,000 of eligible annual expenses per child under seven years old and up to $5,000 per child between the ages of seven and 15. Canada's lowest-income families would have up to 75 per cent of those costs covered — amounting to $6,000 — and as incomes rise, the percentage would drop to a minimum of 26 per cent.

The Tories say because the tax credit is refundable, lower-income families would get the full amount reimbursed even if it pushes their tax bill below zero. The party says the child-care expense deduction currently in place benefits the rich because parents who earn the most get the highest deductions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2021.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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