POLITICS

Trudeau's Tax Credit For Teachers An Attempt To 'Ape' Tories: Harper

08/26/2015 02:09 EDT | Updated 08/26/2015 04:59 EDT

Stephen Harper says Justin Trudeau's promise of a tax break for teachers sounds a lot like something Conservatives would do.

Trudeau announced Wednesday a federal Liberal government would give teachers and early childhood educators a refundable tax benefit

" target="_hplink">up to $150 on $1,000 worth of supplies and materials they buy out of pocket to enhance their work.

"Keep your receipts," Trudeau urged teachers getting ready for the new school year.

The promise is expected to cost taxpayers $60 million annually.

When asked later about Trudeau's announcement, Harper said the Liberal leader was trying to "ape" Tory policies, but conceded the idea is "something to consider."

"It certainly sounds a lot like trying to be a Conservative," Harper said.

Harper noted his government brought in tax credits for students — "for their bus passes, for their textbooks" — despite opposition from Trudeau and other Liberals.

Conservative spokesperson Stephen Lecce told The Huffington Post Canada via email that the employment credit Tories introduced in 2006 already allows teachers to claim a credit for school supplies.

"In fact, it allows all working Canadians to claim costs for job-related supplies," he said.

Tories have long used so-called "boutique tax credits" to woo different segments of the voting public. Just last weekend, Harper promised a re-elected Tory government would bring in a tax credit for members of service clubs.

The admittedly modest proposal would let those belonging to groups like the Shriners and Knights of Columbus claim a small break on their membership fees, Harper said.

Tories earlier promised a permanent home renovation tax credit applicable to $5,000 in eligible expenses.

The Harper government has brought in a number of tax breaks over the past nine years in efforts to appeal to public transit users, volunteer firefighters, parents who have kids taking piano lessons, and plenty others.

One of the more popular measures — the children's fitness tax credit — was doubled to $1,000 in the most recent federal budget, resulting in maximum savings of $150 for every child under 16. The credit is designed to help ease the burden of enrolling kids in sports activities.

But Conservatives have not made good on an adult fitness tax credit, promised in 2011, that would let Canadians claim up to $500 in eligible fitness registration fees. Tories predicted such a move would cost the government almost $70 million in its first year, and $275 million the year after.

Harper claimed this week that the credit was the only 2011 campaign promise Tories haven't delivered. Design issues were blamed for the delay.

Scott Clark, a former deputy minister at finance under Jean Chrétien's Liberal government, told the Huffington Post Canada last spring that an adult fitness tax credit is "the height of ridiculous."

"How could you imagine using a scarce amount of money to give people — adults, of all people — money to join a club?" he said.

"If you are a jogger, a biker or a walker, you don't get anything, but if you are a member of a club you get to buy smoothies for another two weeks."

With files from The Canadian Press

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