Politics

Stephen Harper promises new tax credit for single, widowed seniors

A re-elected Conservative government would offer a new tax credit for single and widowed seniors, party leader Stephen Harper said Tuesday.

All three main federal parties have been courting seniors in recent days

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper promises new tax credits for single and widowed seniors. 1:04

A re-elected Conservative government would offer a new tax credit for single and widowed seniors, party leader Stephen Harper said Tuesday. 

Harper announced the $2,000 tax credit — which would be phased in over four years beginning in January 2017 — during a campaign stop in Vancouver. He said it would provide tax relief — up to $300 a year — to 1.6 million seniors across the country who have pension incomes. 

The new tax credit can be combined with the existing $2,000 pension income credit. According to the Tories, seniors who claim both tax credits could see a net benefit of up to $600 per year. 

The new tax credit will cost about $23 million in its first year, with that number rising to $397 million once it is fully implemented. It can be claimed against all income other than Canada Pension Plan income or Old Age Security payments. 

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Harper said that seniors have worked and saved their whole lives and they know best how to make financial decisions about their retirement. 

The Tory leader has been highly critical of the NDP and Liberal pledges to expand the Canada Pension Plan and employment insurance program, saying it will inevitably lead to what he calls payroll tax hikes and stifle the growth of small businesses. 

"If the NDP or Liberals have their way, they will raise dramatically your payroll taxes in the name of retirement planning. Job-killing, payroll tax hikes," he told the audience of seniors. "Our Conservative approach is to give our seniors and our future seniors choices to let you decide how to best save for your retirement."

'Boutique' tax credits

The new tax credit for seniors is the latest in a series of so-called 'boutique' credits the Conservatives have rolled out ahead of the Oct. 19 vote. The other party leaders have taken shots at the Tories on the campaign trail, pointing out that some economists say boutique credits only serve to complicate the tax system. 

The CBC's James Fitz-Morris drills down into the tax code to find out there are now more than 120 tax credits. This has stretched the tax code to the length of five Canadian football fields. You think you're saving money - but at what cost? 1:34

When questioned by a reporter about a lack of broad-base tax reductions in the Conservative campaign platform so far, Harper said that the credits they have promised are "good things for Canadians."

"I don't think most Canadians are finding their tax forms harder to fill out. On the contrary, they are happy to take advantage of those things," he said, adding that he knows "the other guys don't like them."

For their part, the New Democrats and Liberals have been courting seniors in recent days as well. The NDP has committed to boosting spending on specialized health care initiatives, while the Liberals have promised to help the bottom line of low-income seniors

After wrapping up in Vancouver, Harper is headed to his hometown of Calgary this evening to begin preparing for the Globe and Mail sponsored debate on the economy on Thursday night. 

The Tory leader has pushed hard to make the economy the central theme of the election. During Tuesday's campaign stop, he held up Finance Department numbers showing a $1.9-billion surplus for 2014-15 instead of a predicted $2 billion shortfall as evidence his economic plan is working.

Harper said Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau seems to think the surplus in Canada provoked a worldwide fall in oil prices and that plunging the country back into deficit would be a good plan.

Trudeau has criticized the surplus, saying it was the product of under-spending on vulnerable Canadians such as veterans, seniors and aboriginals — an accusation that Harper said is "absurd." 

Indeed, spending to all three groups increased last year over the previous year. 

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With files from CBC's Hannah Thibedeau

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