Scheer promises Tories would ease access to federal disability tax credit

Andrew Scheer (Facebook Andrew Scheer)

Andrew Scheer continued applying his campaign strategy of offering tax breaks to specific groups of Canadians on Monday by promising a Conservative government would make it easier for thousands of people to get a federal disability tax credit.

``If a loved one lives with a disability, a chronic illness or a life-limiting condition, it takes a toll on the entire family, both emotionally and financially,'' he said during an event at a support centre for disabled Canadians in an eastern suburb of Toronto.

``We need to do more to support Canadians with disabilities in ways that leave more money in their pockets to help them manage their health needs.''

The pledge follows the Conservative leader's earlier election-campaign commitments to re-introduce tax credits for transit users and families with kids in sports and arts programs, among others.

It also comes two years after health groups joined forces with the Tories in accusing the Liberal government of trying to raise tax revenue on the backs of diabetics.

The accusation stemmed from a change at the Canada Revenue Agency that saw Type 1 diabetics being rejected for the tax credit even though they had previously qualified, prompting anger and concern from Diabetes Canada, the Canadian Medical Association and others.

The Canada Revenue Agency later said it would reverse course and process applications under the previous regime.

Scheer nonetheless accused the Liberals Monday of not doing enough to help diabetics and others coping with disabilities, saying a Conservative government would reduce the number of hours per week that must be spent on managing a disability to qualify for the tax credit.

Canadians must currently spend 14 hours a week on ``life-sustaining therapy'' to qualify for the credit and pay less income tax, and Scheer said the Tories would reduce that to 10 hours per week.

The Conservative leader is also promising to expand the types of activities that count towards those hours, including the addition of exercise and the time taken to determine medical food and formula dosages.

The Tories predict the changes will result in about 35,000 more Canadians being eligible for the tax credit, with average savings of $2,100 per year. The parliamentary budget office says it would cost the government $40 million starting in 2020-21 and $71 million by 2028-29.

Scheer made Monday's announcement in the riding once held by the late Jim Flaherty, who was federal finance minister under Stephen Harper. Flaherty was a passionate advocate along with his wife, current Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, for the disability community.

Flaherty and Elliott were instrumental in helping build the Abilities Centre, where Scheer made Monday's announcement.