A re-elected Conservative government would create a tax credit for children's artistic activities, Stephen Harper pledged on Monday, saying the measure will "help families breathe a little."
Speaking in Ottawa, Harper said the Conservatives would extend the new credit worth an estimated $150 million a year to lower-income families, along with the existing children's fitness tax credit.
The credit will apply on up to $500 of eligible fees for children under 16 who participate in eligible arts activities, he said.
The Conservatives would also allow charities and not-for-profit groups to set up registered education savings plans for kids from low-income families, he said.
The move comes as the Conservatives have faced intense criticism, especially in Quebec, over a decision to cut up to $45 million in federal funding for numerous arts programs ahead of the Oct. 14 federal election.
Harper has countered that the funding for the Department of Canadian Heritage has increased by eight per cent since his government came to power in 2006.
"Today's announcement shows once again, as I've been saying, that this government, in fact, does support culture and arts," Harper told reporters.
"We spend a lot more on culture and arts, but we do so in a way that we ensure is an effective use of taxpayers' money and ultimately, in this case, benefits families and all of society as well."
Last week, Harper drew increased fire from critics and artists when he said he believed the outcry over the cuts was "a niche issue" and suggested "ordinary Canadians" couldn't relate to the funding complaints of artists at "rich galas" subsidized by the taxpayer.
During the funding announcement, Harper again stressed credits were part of the Conservatives' "clear, affordable, practical, and believable" proposals at a time of global economic uncertainty, while Stéphane Dion's Liberals are offering "untested, grandiose, theoretical" proposals.