How the 3 main parties compare in their support for families

three-parties.jpgFamily policy is front and centre in the lead up to the October federal election. The Conservatives and the NDP had already weighed in, putting billions on the table. Mr. Trudeau has now offered some specifics of his own by promising to consolidate federal child tax benefits.

We’ve crunched the numbers to see how the three big parties would change investments in families in the year after the election.

Follow the money

Mr. Harper would inject $4.6 billion in new money for families with children in his budget via income splitting and the expanded Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB).

UPDATE (September 28, 2015).  The NDP promise to keep $2.6 billion budgeted for the expanded UCCB, but not other money earmarked for income splitting. Instead, they will add $595 million toward their long term vision of $15/day child care, and $500 million for low-income families to be delivered through the National Child Benefit Supplement and Working Income Tax Benefit.  This brings the NDP investment to $3.7 billion. 

The Liberal plan would reallocate funds from income splitting and the UCCB along with other child tax credits to create one consolidated Canada Child Benefit to which they would add another $2 billion.  This makes the Liberal investment $6.6 billion – billions more than both the Conservatives and NDP.

Who will benefit

Not only would the Liberals spend more, their tax credit is better designed – especially compared to the Conservative plan.

While income splitting reaches about one-third of families with kids, the Liberals would spread their entire investment among a broader group of families.

While income splitting delivers the larger benefits primarily to higher earning families, the Liberals would do the reverse:  delivering larger benefits to lower and middle income households.

While the design of income splitting and the UCCB reinforces gender roles, the Liberals plan is more neutral about how moms and dads divide paid and unpaid labour.

Tax policy is NOT child care service policy

The Liberals have not yet made specific policy commitments to child care services.  This is a major omission because younger Canadians need more time in the labour market than a generation ago to fend off lower earnings and higher housing costs. The Liberals insists they will make further announcements about child care.  

The Conservatives state they won’t invest directly in child care services.

The NDP might appear stronger on this issue, promising $15/day child care.  However, Tom Mulcair will only budget about five to ten per cent of the cost of his promise in the first year after the election. After 8 years, he will only put half the money on the table.     

The medical care elephant in the room

Mr. Mulcair doesn’t talk about it, but the limited funding he intends for child care is tied partly to his approach to medical care.  Conservatives and the NDP both plan to grow the Canada Health Transfer to provinces.  But the NDP would allocate billions more than the Conservatives, and do so faster.  In three years, the NDP intends to increase annual health care spending by more than the entire amount they plan to spend on child care eight years from now.  This begs the question: is $15/day child care as much of a priority as the NDP sometimes suggests?

As the Liberal leader ponders how his party should balance spending on medical care with other options like child care, it’s worth acknowledging that Canadians don’t get bang for our medical care buck.  Evidence shows Canadians spend more on medical care than many other rich countries, but get only middling or below average access to doctors, CT scans, MRIs and patient satisfaction.  We do, however, get well paid doctors.

With Generation Squeeze, the Canadian Public Health Association is presenting a half-day session at its annual meetings that will explore how to contain the growth of medical care spending precisely because evidence shows other uses of the funding would better promote health.  All political leaders should take note, and revisit their own social spending priorities heading into the federal election.


Dr. Paul Kershaw is Founder of Generation Squeeze, and a policy professor in the University of BC School of Population Health

Many young Canadians say they don’t vote, because it’s difficult to discern the key differences between party platforms. Generation Squeeze aims to fix this by serving as a trusted, absolutely non-partisan source of analysis about party platforms.

Showing 19 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • commented 2015-10-15 12:56:21 -0700
    Just a short supplement two of my candidates endorsers are or were chancellors of the two Universities in our city. Art Mauro current University f Manitoba and Lloyd Axworthy university of Winnipeg

  • commented 2015-10-15 12:50:01 -0700
    Easy candidate choices sometimes boil down to the local candidate. I am lucky enough to be able to choose from the incumbent Conservative candidate a former loser of the liberal nomination and an invisible backbencher and a new Liberal candidate who is expected to take a leadership role.

    I dont know your new candidate all that well but mine is endorsed by at least three of my most respected former business allies including Art Mauro , Lloyd Axworthy , and Richard Kroft. He is also one of only 18 candidates from all parties in Canada with a strong environmental record according to GreenPac who’s aim is to return Canada to a leadership role in environmental Policy. He is endorsed by The former MP from our riding Lloyd A MINISTER of foreign affairs and Services and former Prime Minister Paul Martin who says his financial acumen and business creds will be needed in Ottawa. Previously a MLA of the riding in the provincial Legislature and
    An OBOIST with the WSO a Journalist for WFP and CBC. Founding president of the business Council of Manitoba 1997 to 2014. Vice Chair of the IISD International Institute of Sustainable Developement and Director of the Canada West Foundation and the CBC .
    Co chair of the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council Board Board Member United Way ,and the Center for Peace and Justice and a founding member of the Arab Jewish Dialogue a group working for peace in the middle east. In 2012 he was awarded the Order of Manitoba.

    He has lived in the riding all his life.

    Mel Rom I think he might win. and I think you might find a change in fiscal assistance to those in need, especially in affordable housing assistance, and healh care funding for the provinces so that it need not end at 18.

  • commented 2015-10-15 10:44:24 -0700
    What kind of help will single mothers receive who have special needs children?
    and what happens once those special needs kids turn 18? does it all just come to a halt?
    It is so difficult to try and get any financial or mental support once kids turn 16 and up.
    Where does that leave me once they turn 18?
    The cost of living keeps rising but incomes stay the same, how can we be expected to survive and pay bills? with the same level of income.

  • commented 2015-06-20 08:29:33 -0700
    Brandie you have a good point but what amazes me more is the assumption that the only way to make systemic change is to reduce spending in some other area. We have seen our ability to fund these programs reduced by $23 billion. Most of that reduction has enhanced the income of the smallest group of Canadian Elite earners and consumers. The transfer of wealth to this group did not have to happen as they seem to have discovered recently in alberta. The words Tax and Profit have taken on new perceptions but they can and will change back..
    Those Green programs you speak of are far more important and compelling than whether a corporations bottom line is reduced by higher taxes. Not for one minute do I believe there will be fewer jobs created because of it. I’ve been a business owner for the last 33 years.
    Study after study has shown that increases in minimum wages result in greater Consumer spending and greater rather than fewer jobs .
    The heritage that will be left to the next Cabinet in power is ….reduced to the bone programs and inadequate taxes and revenue to fund them. If Alberta can show the leadership to reverse this abomination the rest of Canada can.
    And no matter who is elected, lets recognize that additional revenue has to be raised to fund them if just the existing programs. TAXES should no longer be a dirty word. Carbon based energy is and was. We were willingly seduced by its promise and its royalties.and taxes. As to “profit” perhaps its due to be taken down a notch or two on the totem pole.
    Walter I agree, accommodating and choosing is an appropriate response to the economicly twisted realities of some major Canadian cities. It is a far better response than choosing to select immediate needs and desires funded by by major reductions to healthcare programs of the aged and vulnerable .We all will be there at some time in the future. As to the guy with the hair and glasses his friends seem to be deserting him at an alarming rate.
    Do you suppose there might be a fourth alternative?

  • commented 2015-06-20 04:18:17 -0700
    This has to be one of the most intelligent groups of posters ever seen on an internet discussion. Maybe Paul is doing some major filtering, or maybe smart people care.

    Got to agree with the comments. Government programs are not going to fix the high house prices in Vancouver; low interest rates and rich Chinese are driving those. Previous government promises about daycare were not kept; what is different this time with the kid with the hair? The guy with the beard is planning socialist stuff that did not seem to work in the rest of the world, why would it work now in Canada? That leaves us with the grey haired guy with the glasses who seems to be steering the ship on some sort of decent course, given that it is not just youth in Canada being squeezed, it is global-Chinese workers can not buy a house in a major city, no way. Same for young people in most of Europe.

    I am right in the middle of this squeezed demographic, with a 2 year old kid and my solution was to leave the expensive city with low wages and work for high wages somewhere else. Now I am not squeezed any more.

  • commented 2015-06-19 19:09:02 -0700
    I find it amusing that you only have the three parties, no Green Party. The reason why I find it amusing is NDP and Liberals election platforms are both from the standard Green Party policy. If people really don’t want to have to wonder who to trust to follow through just go with the party that have always had these policies. These Policies are what the Green Party is all about!

  • commented 2015-06-19 18:09:41 -0700
    Dr Paul I suggest you find something else to pick on unless you really want to alienate the potential liberals you appear to favor. Everyone in the squeeze generation will aspire or not but will be a senior some day. Pitting squeezers against seniors for resources as you already know is a fruitless endeavor. Unless, of course, you are really pitting seniors against the LIBS. Now that would be Machiavellian wouldn’t it. In terms of votes cast that is what you will probably succeed at.. Just sayin.
    I believe the difference between Seniors and Squeezers who are inadequately resourced and over taxed is that seniors have neither the health nor the energy to fight another battle to benefit everyone as we have fought in the past. We have already paid for the Healthcare and Pensions of the two generations of Seniors who proceeded us into retirement and are proud that we could do at least that. Now in many instances we are paying for the current generation of squeezers and seniors. We are also proud of that. What we are not proud of is the blatant use of unenlightened self interest to further a self serving perceived need or political ambition. Very unCanadian. IMO.

  • commented 2015-06-19 16:01:37 -0700
    Justin Trudeau votes in step with Harper almost all the time in the House of Commons. He’s actually one of Harper’s biggest supporters when it comes to that front. If you want change, a just society and a society where everyone wins, there is one party that offers it and it isn’t the conservatives or Liberals.

  • commented 2015-06-19 15:59:29 -0700
    Well this is a pretty inaccurate and terrible article. It mentions nothing of the Conservatives pulling $Billions in funding for healthcare ($36B, likely in an attempt to push provinces towards privatization of health services), the drastically reduced investment in science, technology and education; the continual chiseling away of our social programming infrastructure.

  • commented 2015-06-09 23:03:01 -0700
    I might mention that almost all of those programs are provincial responsibilities. promises made need not be kept as there needs to be cooperative governments in most if not all provinces to implement these programs. For a federal Government giving the money for these to Quebec and not Ontario does not compute nor is it doable. Health, education and childcare services are Provincial.

  • commented 2015-06-09 22:43:28 -0700
    Dr Kershaw your premise is definitely on point for the lower mainland but most of what you are describing is largely location sensitive. Admittedly there are a limited number of graduate and post graduate institutions in each province. The cost of everything in BC is skewed by multiples of 2, 3 or more times the cost of comparables in other locations in Canada.. In fact only Toronto . compares to what you are dealing with. You might want to offer a comparison of just what benefits and costs are regionally or provincially to understand something 100s if not thousands of foreign students have discovered. They are spending time researching the relative costs of living, attending university, raising children and paying for transportation, housing and health care in Canada and elsewhere. . In Canada that pendulum favors low cost areas like The Maritimes, the eastern prairies and Quebec with a few selected locations in Ontario..
    Locations such as lower Mainland, BC, and Toronto are prohibitively expensive . Calgary is becoming that way although until recently it had a plethora of well paying jobs and no sales tax.. It does not overspend on seniors services perhaps because they don’t represent as large a group as in other areas.
    Day Care comparisons would also be on point, and taxes, that necessary evil, might just surprise many of us, especially if we concentrated on the young family’s and students and single parents and maintenance.. Of course income, housing and family supports should be included as well.
    .I was shocked recently to read that disposable income of NHL Players Winnipeg Jets players rated comparably to those bastions of the Barrel (Oil) Calgary, Edmonton, Denver, and Dallas. as well as Florida. Far better than NewYork, L.A. Toronto Ottawa and Montreal.and the rest of those eastern centers.
    When you factor everything your chosen location just might be very close to the bottom of the list.
    Like you I have reviewed the alternatives and unlike you I can’t afford to live in BC for even part of the year.. I think I am one of the lucky ones though. All those prairie siblings of my family and their spouses and their oldest children who relocated to southern BC from the eastern prairies have passed away. Something about the salt in the air, instead of on the roads perhaps..
    When you are finished the comparison you might find that the results are far less about the party and more about history. You are living in one of the most beautiful and desired locations in the world. The wealth of the Far East and elsewhere has made it among the most expensive places in the world to live. Far worse, many don’t pay income taxes or in any other way support the economy.

  • commented 2015-06-08 10:22:39 -0700
    It’s also worth noting that the Liberals campaigned on a national daycare program in the 90s – had almost 10 years of majority power and never delivered. While looking at the current policies in place is important, this cannot be siloed without looking at their history, decisions and and values each party has consistently stood by. I’ve been sorely disappointed by both the Conservative and Liberal track record and policies in the last decades which largely augmented the challenges our generation faces today. Hello, huge student debts.

  • commented 2015-05-26 19:02:37 -0700
    Re TH comment on $15/day child care.
    Hi again TH.
    Gen Squeeze doesn’t propose that government DELIVER $10/day child care (our numbers show that $10 is a better price to ease the squeeze on younger generations raising kids). Our recommendation is that governments pay to bring the costs of child care down, and regulate its quality. Private organizations (non-profit and/or commercial) would deliver the programs, and receive public funding if they met the regulations governing quality. Cheers,

  • commented 2015-05-26 18:58:21 -0700
    Hi TH,
    Thanks for the comments. The UCCB provides larger benefits (after tax) to two parent households with one breadwinner and one stay at home parent than they do to employed lone-parents and dual-earner households. Since most one-earner couples typically rely on male breadwinners, the UCCB has the result of favouring that family formation more than others. Income splitting does this too, on a much larger scale.

    Gen Squeeze values parental time at home. In fact we think it so important that men should do it as much as women. Our parental leave recommendation is designed specifically to support that objective.

    Families will make decisions for themselves about what division of labour works best for them. That’s just fine. Our Gen Squeeze analysis is simply pointing out that public policy shouldn’t privilege some gender divisions of labour over others when they can be shown to have harmful outcomes for gender equality. Cheers,
    Paul Kershaw

  • followed this page 2015-05-26 13:40:27 -0700

  • commented 2015-05-26 12:17:14 -0700
    How does Universal Child Care Benefit reinforce gender roles?
    I don’t understand that point. Please explain.
    What I like about the UCCB is that it is taxable income. If you make a lot of $$$ and you are in a higher tax %, then you will benefit the least from UCCB. If you are in a low income bracket then you benefit most.

  • commented 2015-05-26 12:13:28 -0700
    A " $15 child care system" in the governments hands will end up just like Health Care or Education. Ballooned, Red Tape and Frustrating. Yes, Governments need to support people with children. I would rather have more $$$ left in the pockets of those people, so they can make the right choices for their own children.

  • commented 2015-05-19 17:41:51 -0700
    I’ve always been fairly pro-NDP but maybe this is going to change!

  • commented 2015-05-14 11:28:49 -0700
    Thanks for writing this….very helpful!

“Yes, Canadian governments need to make younger people a priority. I want a Canada that works for all generations."

Zero supporters 50,000 supporters 100,000 supporters 500,000 supporters 1,000,000 supporters
Supporters so far

*Gen Squeeze respects your privacy. By clicking "JOIN" you consent to receive updates on our work, including offers related to our benefits program. You can unsubscribe at any time.

How 3 federal parties compare in their support for families #cdnpoli @CPC_HQ @NDP_HQ @liberal_party via @GenSqueeze
How the 3 main parties compare in their support for families
New national lobby group seeks to increase influence of Canadians in their 20s, 30s and 40s
Contribute to my CODE RED campaign and help fight the squeeze!