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

Last Updated Sep 16, 2019 at 4:42 pm EDT

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer arrives for a campaign event in Comox, B.C., on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

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 enrolling their kids 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.

At a campaign stop Sunday in Comox, B.C., a supporter at a roundtable asked Scheer if he was planning to bring back the fitness credits as well as income splitting for families, because her daughter had relied on them.

Income splitting allows married couples to share income from a higher income earner to the lower income earner, which means more income tax would be paid at lower tax bracket rates.

Scheer didn’t tip his hand to her if he intends to also restore income splitting, but said there would be more tax cuts to come _ something he reiterated Monday.

“I can assure you that throughout the rest of this campaign we will be proposing new ideas to leave more money in the pockets of Canadians,” he said.

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.

Later today, he heads to Calgary where he will visit one of two ridings the Liberals won in the last election – the first time in almost half a century Liberals won seats in the Alberta city.

The Calgary Skyview riding is an open seat. Darshan Kang won the seat as a Liberal in 2015, but was removed from the caucus over allegations of improper behaviour with staff. He sat as an independent, but is not running again.

The riding has one of the largest Sikh populations in Canada.