Nova Scotia

Federal budget cuts to child fitness tax credit worries parent

A Halifax-area parent is encouraging others to speak out against the federal government's plan to axe the children's fitness tax credit.

Liberals to phase out children's fitness and arts credits by 2017

Darlene Fagan says anything that helps promote physical activity for children is worth saving. (Submitted by Darryl Morrison)

A Halifax-area parent is encouraging others to speak out against the federal government's plan to axe the children's fitness tax credit.

The Liberals announced in Tuesday's budget that they would phase out the fitness and arts credits by the end of 2017.

It was a disappointing announcement for Darlene Fagan, who helps run the Metro Karate Training Centre.

"If that credit is gone, that could be the difference between being able to continue to pay or not pay for participation," she said.

The outgoing fitness credit gave parents a maximum refund of $150 to help with registration and membership fees.

Fagan claims the credit annually for her children's activities, and she issues the annual tax receipts to families at the karate club.

'They're struggling financially'

She says there's a divide in who needs them: parents who have their children in a number of activities tell her they don't want a receipt because the other sports max out the credit. But then there are parents of children who only participate in one sport.

"They're struggling financially to be able to keep participating in karate," she said. "They are the people that seem to consistently want and need and really look to get the credit."

At Halifax Dance, the executive director didn't realize the children's art credit was also being cut. It was worth up to $75 to cover arts activities.

Leah Hamilton says the majority of families at the dance school ask for receipts. But she doesn't think the loss of the credit will lead to dropouts.

"I guess time will tell, it's hard to say right now. I think it's a great benefit to our families and there's lots of interest in claiming the credit. But at the same time I'm not sure that it's a prime, motivating factor in registering for dance classes."

'Boutique credits' gone

Scott Brison, the Liberal MP for Kings-Hants and president of the Treasury Board, says the government's plan will actually benefit more families than those who are currently using the credits created by the former Conservative government.

Families will now receive the Canada child benefit, a monthly tax-free payment that parents can decide how to spend.

"Many of the boutique credits that were offered by our previous government were not progressive in that perversely they didn't benefit low-income children that needed the help the most," said Brison.

"We're actually targeting our support broadly towards low and middle income families that need the help."

But Fagan says it's a loss that something put in place to specifically promote physical activity is now gone.

"I think it's an important thing as parents, especially when we know that so many of us are struggling to pay for good programing and have our kids continue to be active," she said.

"Anything that helps us as parents get our kids off of the computers, off of the electronics, doing something physical and social, it needs to be maintained."


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