Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/7/2015 (1680 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — According to employment minister Pierre Poilievre, Monday was "Christmas in July for moms and dads."
The Sunday tweet — which was met with significant online backlash — was the latest salvo in the government’s taxpayer funded promotional tour for the enhanced Universal Child Care Benefit.
That expansion — increasing the UCCB to $160 a month for kids under six and $60 a month for kids between six and 17 — rolled out Monday. Poilievre says 3.8 million Canadian families (148,000 in Manitoba) were to receive cheques or direct cash deposits ranging from $420 to $520 per kid depending on their age.
The roll out gained a lot of attention Monday, was trending on Twitter and was the talk of many a Facebook parents’ group and water cooler gossip. But a lot of that discussion surrounded whether or not this benefit makes any real difference or not.
When the government first announced the increase and said the first six months of payments would be delayed and delivered in a lump sum in July, cynics were quick to note that meant families would be getting money in their bank accounts right before the election began.
The main reason the money was delayed was the need to get Parliament to approve the increase before sending out the cheques, so the government can’t entirely be accused of purposely holding back the money for political gain.
It just looks that way, and the government is shamelessly using tax dollars to promote this program to the hilt.
Poilievre has been flying across the country for several weeks now to stage government events promoting the UCCB. The election campaign hasn’t officially started yet but Poilievre even donned a Conservative logo shirt Monday morning for his press conference in Halifax, something he wouldn’t explain but which drew heavy criticism for blurring the lines of partisanship and government activities.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrote to his MPs recently telling them to promote the UCCB increase and remind people the NDP and Liberals would get rid of it, even if that isn’t really true.
"This is the single biggest one-time direct payment in Canadian history," Harper told his MPs in the letter, which was marked confidential but provided to some media outlets.
His MPs complied.
"It arrives today," shouted Edmonton MP Laurie Hawn on Twitter.
Others, including Poilievre again and Manitoba regional minister Shelly Glover took to Twitter to ask people to tweet them when their payment arrived "to let us know you got it."
Some people did just that, expressing gratitude for the money, while others lashed out in anger, noting the UCCB barely covers a few days a month of child care for most families. Some cheekily noted they were donating their UCCB cheque to the NDP or the Liberals.
What is lacking in most of the government communication is a full picture of how much money we are actually talking about here.
The government isn’t reminding you for example that the UCCB is taxable income, so while you got a cheque for $420 or $520 per kid Monday, come next April you will send some of that back to the government.
It also isn’t pointing out come tax time you will not be able to claim the $2,255 per child tax credit anymore because it was scrapped in order to increase the UCCB. It means you end up paying more tax, further clawing back the actual impact of the UCCB increase.
The increased UCCB will cost the government $4.4 billion, but it will save almost $2 billion by eliminating the child tax credit. Some families will actually pay more tax because of the lost credit than they will get from the increased UCCB and will actually be worse off, not better, at the end of the day.
To be fair, the Conservatives are also increasing the day-care tax credit by $1,000 so you can claim a little bit more against your taxes for that and about one-third of the families receiving the UCCB will also be eligible for income splitting so some families, mainly those with large differences in income such as families with stay-at-home parents, will see more benefits than others.
But all of this is complicated and takes away from the simple message Poilievre wants you to remember this week: that he gave you some cash.
So tweet him at @pierrepoilievre, and tell him what you did with it.
He really wants to know.