The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) is optimistic about several initiatives included in the March 22 federal budget that spell out more investment in families, children and youth.
One of those initiatives is a new Canada Child Benefit, which will begin in July 2016. Families with children will be eligible for an annual benefit of up to $6,400 per child under the age of 6 and up to $5,400 per child between the ages of 6 and 17. The government estimates that 9 out of 10 families with children will receive more under the new benefit while hundreds of thousands of children will be lifted out of poverty.
“The federal budget is a welcome signal of support, providing some relief for low-income Canadian families,” said CTF president Heather Smith.
“The consolidation of various child benefit programs into an enhanced Canada Child Benefit that will see a benefit increase to the neediest of families is certainly one of these positive steps.”
The Canada Child Benefit will replace the Canada Child Tax Benefit and the Universal Child Care Benefit. The Children’s Fitness Tax Credit and Children’s Arts Credit will be eliminated.
The budget also provides $2.6 billion over five years to improve primary and secondary education for First Nations children living on reserves. An additional $969.4 million over five years will be used to build, repair and maintain schools in First Nations communities.
“We ... welcome increased education funding to indigenous schools on reserves to bring their levels of funding more in line with other publicly funded schools,” Smith said.
A new income tax credit for teachers and early childhood educators was also announced in the budget. Beginning in the 2016 tax year, the 15 per cent refundable tax credit will apply to up to $1,000 of eligible supplies. Examples identified in the budget include paper, glue and paint for art projects; games and puzzles; and supplementary books.
“We acknowledge the announcement of a tax credit for certified educators when they purchase certain educational materials. Teachers consistently spend from their own pockets to enhance the learning environment for children,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, not all materials purchased by teachers appear to be covered. While this credit does not solve the problem of chronic underfunding of elementary and secondary education, it recognizes some of the contributions made by teachers.”
Smith points to other positive budget announcements:
- A commitment to invest $2.3 billion over two years, starting in 2016/17, in affordable housing
- Reinstatement of the Court Challenges Program, providing financial assistance for individuals and groups who wish to clarify their language and equality rights in Canada’s courts
- Positive changes to Employment Insurance and an increase in funding to Service Canada
She adds, “There is more to family policy than income security programs and the taxation system. Families need a wide range of supporting social, health, education and employment services in their respective communities. Child and youth mental health is a major concern for teachers across the country according to our research.
“Teachers have called for more support between the community, health-care system and schools to support children and youth to overcome challenges related to mental health.
“Many children and youth are denied the opportunity to develop their full potential because their families are not receiving the range of supportive services they need and schools are often expected to pick up the slack,” Smith said.
“We hope the health consultations referred to in the budget will result in increased access to mental health services for Canadian children.” ❚