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Trudeau seeks to one-up Conservatives with plan on maternity, parental benefits

Last Updated Sep 17, 2019 at 12:30 pm EDT

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed a crowd in Edmonton after declining to take part in the first leaders debate in Toronto.

OTTAWA — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau sought to one-up his Conservative rivals Tuesday by promising new parents won’t pay any taxes at all on maternity and parental leave benefits.

The Conservatives had already promised that if they form government, they’d address the fact that those benefits are taxed, by giving new parents a tax credit that would effectively return the money.

But their promise meant the initial tax would still come off benefit cheques, something Trudeau said won’t happen if he’s elected.

“You’ll get every dollar right when you need it, since no taxes will be taken off the EI cheque when new parents receive it,” Trudeau said at a parent-and-child centre in St. John’s, N.L.

The pledge was part of a suite of new measures aimed at parents, which also include increasing the Canada Child Benefit for those with children under a year old and extending benefits under the employment-insurance program for parents who adopt.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer argued Monday that the CCB, which sends parents monthly cheques if their income is below a certain threshold, is effectively a Conservative policy. Under the previous Conservative government, there had been a similar program that saw all families — regardless of income — also receive monthly payments.

“That is a Conservative principle, knowing that moms and dads make choices for their kids better than bureaucrats in Ottawa,” Scheer said at an event in Winnipeg.

Scheer also threw back to the previous Conservative government days Tuesday, offering a variation on a pledge the Tories made in the 2015 campaign to increase the amount of money the government gives towards registered education savings plans (RESPs).

Scheer said a new Conservative government would increase Ottawa’s contribution to such plans from 20 per cent to 30 per cent for every dollar families put in, up to $2,500 per year. Former leader Stephen Harper had also promised an increase, but at different rates tied to family income.

The Conservatives have spent the early days of the campaign making pledges that will cost billions of dollars, but have yet to explain how they’ll pay for them.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also faced questions Monday about how his party will achieve its goals as he promised to build 500,000 new affordable homes across the country in 10 years, if elected.

“We would make different choices, we would spend more and do it immediately,” he said at an event in Ottawa.

How little choice Canadians seem to have when it comes to how personal information gets shared was the subject of the day for the Greens.

Leader Elizabeth May promised she would bring in improved privacy laws and require companies respect the “right to be forgotten” — a principle that people should be able to control whether information from their pasts remains online.

People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier was in New Brunswick, for an evening meeting with candidates and supporters.