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Baloney Meter: Cancelled child care cheques?

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Author: 
Cheadle, Bruce
Publication Date: 
29 Jan 2015
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EXCERPTS

"Friends, our opponents have been clear. They would take away the Universal Child Care Benefit. They've said so on many occasions." - Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a speech Sunday prior to the resumption of the House of Commons.

With the House of Commons returning this week from a five-week break, Prime Minister Stephen Harper set the stage for the 2015 federal election year with a speech to hundreds of supporters Sunday at a suburban Ottawa high school.

The Conservative government rolled out a pricey package of family tax breaks last October that included income splitting for stay-at-home spouses, a boost to the monthly Universal Child Care Benefit that's been in place since 2006, and a new monthly benefit for children aged 6-17.

New Democrats and Liberals have sharply attacked the income-splitting plan, which will cost the federal treasury more than $2 billion a year and will impact only about 15 per cent of families.

However the Conservative move to augment the Universal Child Care Benefit cheque has not generated the same degree of opposition scrutiny or criticism.

So when Harper says the NDP and Liberals would eliminate the benefit - and have said so "on many occasions" - just how accurate is the prime minister's assertion?

Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of "no baloney" to "full of baloney" (complete methodology below).

This one earns a rating of "full of baloney" - the statement is completely inaccurate. Here's why.

THE FACTS

The Universal Child Care Benefit was one of the defining, differentiating policies of the Harper Conservatives when they first came to power early in 2006.

While the Liberals and New Democrats were promising universal, government-funded day care, the Conservatives said they'd put cheques directly in parents' pockets each month.

During that 2006 election campaign, a senior spokesman for incumbent Liberal prime minister Paul Martin publicly derided the proposed $100 monthly stipend as cash parents would "blow on beer and popcorn" - not a realistic child care plan. The comment was insulting to parents and a significant gaffe in the Liberals' re-election effort.

Once the popular child care benefit cheques were in place, neither the Liberals nor the NDP made subsequent campaign commitments to rescind them during the 2008 or 2011 general elections. In fact, the NDP twice proposed expanding the benefit in its platforms.

Nor has the Universal Child Care Benefit been a matter of significant policy debate in the House of Commons in the ensuing years of Conservative rule. An online search of Commons and committee debates going back to 2010 turned up opposition MPs questioning whether the benefit was adequate in value, but not proposing its elimination.

In October, Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced the government is eliminating the Child Tax Credit and replacing it with larger monthly Universal Child Care Benefit cheques, adding $60 to the monthly $100 cheque for kids under six and creating a new $60 benefit for children between ages six and 17.

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Entered Date: 
4 Feb 2015
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