OTTAWA – When the prime minister says the government’s new tax package will benefit all Canadian families with children under 18, will that include his own?
Stephen Harper isn’t saying.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office won’t discuss whether Harper himself intends to take advantage of the new income-splitting rules or the expanded child care benefit, for which his family is eligible.
Stephen Lecce would only repeat the government’s preferred talking point: “All Canadian families with children will benefit and save from the tax package we announced last fall.”
Harper would qualify for the maximum $2,000 tax credit if he split his $334,800 income with his wife, Laureen.
He’d also qualify to claim the child care benefit of $60 for his 16-year-old daughter; his son turned 18 last year so the Harpers missed the cut-off to claim the benefit for him.
Justin Trudeau earns $224,200 a year as Liberal leader, on top of royalties and investments that are left from his father.
He too could qualify for a maximum $2,000 if he split his income with his wife, Sophie Gregoire. Trudeau, however, said he won’t be taking advantage.
“I don’t need it and I’m certainly not going to be applying for it.”
With three children under the age of six, Trudeau also currently qualifies to receive the $100 per month in child care benefits, which is set to rise to $160 per month. That credit he does claim, he said.
“I’m in the process of going through things, but yes, we tend to apply as a family with three small children for a number of things.”
If elected, the Liberals have said they would do away with income splitting, but have not said the same about the child care benefit.
Numerous estimates have found income splitting is likely to only benefit about 15 per cent of Canadian families, even while costing taxpayers some $2 billion per year for five years.
Among those who can’t qualify is NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, whose children are both grown.
His party has also said they’d scrap the income-splitting plan if elected.
What political leaders in Canada claim on their taxes isn’t a matter of public record, unlike in the United States, where the White House publishes a detailed breakdown of the president’s financials.
The federal ethics commissioner does publish a summary of some financial information for the leaders.
The latest registry information indicates Harper holds a mortgage from the Bank of Nova Scotia, while the file for Trudeau lists the numbered corporations which manage his investments.
Before becoming Liberal leader, Trudeau had voluntarily disclosed his entire net worth and the source of his income, which includes an inheritance from his father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who had set up the corporations for his own portfolio.
Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who is in charge of setting transparency rules for government spending, said the system in place for parliamentarians now is sufficient.
“We have a very different system than the U.S.,” Clement said. “We have a very robust disclosure system that’s worked well for members of Parliament.”