Pierre Poilievre in Halifax to tout child-care cheques
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government issues pre-election windfall Monday
Like a kid on summer vacation, federal cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre strode into the Canada Games Centre in Halifax clad in shorts, a Conservative Party T-shirt and beaming from ear to ear to promote a $3-billion child care benefit handout.
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Poilievre, minister of employment and social development, launched a day of ministerial press conferences to remind Canadian parents they're getting money back from the government — money that will be taxed next spring.
"The payment is new. It just arrived today. It's about $500 for every child in Canada," he said as dozens of children chased a soccer ball behind him.
Asked if the money could have been better spent on funding daycare centres, Poilievre responded: "Parents get to spend the money on daycare if that's their choice."
The pre-election windfall was trumpeted for months by government ads and a carefully crafted communications strategy.
'At risk' families
That campaign included the employment minister trying to track down 200,000 families "at risk" of missing out on the enhanced Universal Child Care Benefit, an effort that has so far turned up only a fraction of the missing. It was accompanied by a slew of press releases and events.
Despite the search, there are still 900 families that are not registered in Halifax, said MP Scott Armstrong, who represents Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
He urged those people to contact their members of Parliament or to sign up online.
Halifax West Liberal MP Geoff Regan said the universal payment isn't focused on putting money where it needs to go.
"Conservatives are using taxpayers money to advertise this plan, that doesn't do nearly enough for the middle class and in fact, sends a lot to very wealthy Canadians," he said.
While Poilievre's grin did not waver at Monday's event, he ended on a sober tone.
"Soon it will be back-to-school season and parents could use this money on school supplies and anything else they think appropriate," he said.