Federal budget takes new approach to child benefits

When East York resident Michele Lupa first heard about the new Canada Child Benefit, she was surprised.

“Oh my god! How could I miss that?” she said. “They made a change to the child tax benefit.”

The mother of two, Lupa can apply for the benefit, which will pay families a monthly subsidy based on net income. The new benefit is tax-free and does not exclude families with only one parent.

“Anything that supports parents and families with children is a wise investment in the future,” she said. “I think the benefit being tax-free is a huge shift.”

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the Canada Child Benefit in the federal budget, March 22. He called it the biggest help to parents since universal health care was introduced.

With the Trudeau government Child Benefit, families will receive a maximum payment of $6,400 per year for a child under six and $5,400 for children between the ages of six and 17.

Families earning less than $30,000 will get the maximum payment.

Under the previous Conservative child tax benefit plan, the maximum amount a single parent with a child under six could receive is just over $5,200. The Liberal plan adds over $ 1,000 more for families with young children. Lupa recalled her past experiences with the child tax benefit.

“The Conservative tax benefit was about $100 per month. I remember at that time infant child care was about $1,500 a month and I was getting $100 a month.”

In the current budget, families will see an average increase of nearly $2,300 over the next year.

Lupa added that she felt it was important that the Liberals deliver on campaign promises. She would also like to see a child-care strategy put in place over the next few years.

“I still think we can do better,” she said. “I think they are committed to doing something more substantive in the next budget.”

Martha Friendly, the executive director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit, a Toronto-based policy research institute, said that talks about a strategy for childcare have to happen in the next budget.

“We’re back to the drawing board on how to develop a national child-care strategy,” she said. “They put no money into this budget, but they banked $500 million for next year. That’s enough money for the first year, but there has to be a serious discussion about a national childcare program.”