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Scheer would restore Harper's child fitness and arts tax credits Liberals axed

Last Updated Sep 19, 2019 at 10:11 am EDT

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's campaign plane sits on the tarmac after being towed to the gate after experiencing a ground steering issue, in Calgary on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

LAKE COUNTRY, B.C. — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer wants to revive two more of Stephen Harper’s boutique tax credits axed by the Trudeau Liberals.

Scheer was at a park in Kelowna, B.C., on Monday to announce that if he is elected, parents would receive up to $150 back on their taxes per child up to the age of 16 for enrolment in sports and fitness classes, and another $75 for putting them in arts and learning programs, including dance classes, drawing or after-school tutoring.

The Children’s Fitness Tax Credit and Children’s Arts and Learning Tax Credit are a throwback to the Harper government that implemented identical tax credits during their decade in office.

“These were incredibly popular tax credits,” Scheer said. “Hundreds of thousands of Canadian families appreciated the extra help with paying for kids activities. That is why they were so disappointed when Justin Trudeau cancelled them.”

A group of children were staged to play soccer and lacrosse in the background as Scheer made his announcement.

The parliamentary budget office estimates the combined cost of the credits would hit $300 million in 2020-21, rising to $371 million by 2028-29. That is on top of the $6 billion annual cost to the income tax cut Scheer promised Sunday by cutting the lowest income tax rate from 15 per cent to 13.75 per cent.

Scheer has not yet said how he will pay for the tax cuts and still meet his commitment to balance the budget by 2025. He said he intends to release a fully costed platform, and that education and health care funding will rise by at least three per cent a year.

“It’s a question of a controlling the rate of growth of government departments and some philosophical differences.”

The only concrete spending cut he has mentioned is cancelling Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s $250-million contribution to the Asian infrastructure bank.

Like the Harper credits, Scheer’s policy maxes out the fitness tax credit at $1,000 of eligible expenses, and $500 for arts, and increased the amounts to $1,500 and $1,000 respectively, as well as upping the age limit to 18, for children with disabilities.

Harper made the credits refundable in 2014, meaning low-income families got the money back even if they didn’t owe any taxes. Scheer maintains that element.

Trudeau phased out the two credits after defeating Harper in 2015, saying instead he was rolling the funds, along with other child tax credits and benefits into a single, tax-free Canada Child Benefit.

Scheer is attacking Trudeau’s claim that the two tax breaks didn’t really help Canadian families.

Last week, Scheer also pledged to bring back another Harper-era tax cut that Trudeau has done away with: the transit tax credit, worth up to 15 per cent of the cost of monthly or annual transit passes.

The Liberals have built much of their re-election effort on telling Canadians that Scheer will just bring back the Harper government Canadians rejected four years ago.

The Kelowna—Lake Country riding Scheer campaigned in Monday was a Conservative stronghold, won by the Reform, Canadian Alliance or Conservative Party every election since 1997 until Liberal Stephen Fuhr nabbed a win in 2015.

Scheer has so far campaigned entirely in ridings he wants to pick up from either the Liberals or the NDP.

Scheer’s campaign tour got briefly delayed Monday when his chartered plane encountered a mechanical issue with the ground steering equipment.

After the plane landed at the Calgary airport, Scheer was left to sit on the tarmac for an hour before the plane was towed to the parking area. Mechanics discovered the plane had a hydraulics issue with the ground steering and Air Canada supplied a replacement Airbus while Scheer’s branded plane is repaired.

The delay shortened a planned round table with some female business owners at a Calgary Boston Pizza restaurant, but a campaign stop in the swing riding of Calgary Skyview went on as planned.

A campaign spokesman said the plane change was only expected to delay departure to Winnipeg briefly.

Scheer is campaigning in the city Tuesday morning.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press