The Conservative party’s pledge to cut taxes on employment insurance benefits for new parents would cost the federal government more than $600 million next year, according to an independent analysis by the Parliamentary Budget Office.
The PBO estimates the cost of the promise would be more than $1 billion a year beginning in 2021-22, and reach $1.26 billion in 2028.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has proposed introducing a non-transferable tax credit for new parents that would reduce taxes on their parental E.I. benefits by 15 per cent.
“(The PBO) analysis is right in line with what we expected it to cost. We think it’s very important,” Scheer told reporters at an event in North York Thursday morning.
“When new moms and dads take E.I. mat leave or parental leave, they forgo up to 45 per cent of their salary. That’s a huge sacrifice in the critical early months when all the costs are going up.”
Scheer said the party’s fully-costed fiscal plan will be released over the coming weeks in the lead up to the Oct. 21 general election.
Scheer highlighted the promise at a morning photo-op with North York Conservative candidate Rachel Willson. It’s one of the few concrete proposals Scheer has made on his campaign’s main theme of making life more affordable for Canadian voters.
But Scheer was forced onto a different topic after the Liberals released a 2017 video of Willson saying it was “shocking” that Canada doesn’t have laws restricting abortion.
Willson did not close the door to introducing legislation that restricts abortion through a private members bill, should she be elected in the North York riding. But she said her “current focus” is on issues she’s hearing from Toronto residents at the doorstep like public safety and affordability.
“I have never hidden behind the fact that I am pro-life,” Willson told reporters at a North York photo-op. “But our party is focused on issues that unite Canadians.”
Scheer says the Conservatives’ longtime position on abortion has not changed. A Scheer government would not bring forward legislation on social issues like abortion or same-sex marriage, and would vote against any backbench MP who brought forward their own motion or legislation.
But Scheer was elected Conservative leader in 2017, in part, through the support of social conservatives, and the Liberals are trying to make sure voters don’t forget that. In August, they released a video of Scheer from 2005 telling the House of Commons that same-sex marriage could not, in fact, be considered marriage because same-sex couples can’t “naturally procreate.”
Last month, Conservative Quebec lieutenant Alain Reyes was forced to publicly correct his private suggestion to three candidates that a Scheer government would block MPs from bringing forward private members bills or motions on abortion, according to HuffPost Canada.
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In fact, Scheer has promised free votes for his MPs on “matters of conscience” like abortion – something Willson praised Thursday.
“We’re the only party that allows for free votes, and so I’m grateful our leader will allow for free votes on matters of moral conscience,” Willson said.