Critics say Ottawa skimped on caregiver tax credit
Published Thursday, February 23, 2012 9:59PM EST
Ever since Michael Boyd was diagnosed with a brain tumour five years ago, his wife Irene has been his caregiver, nurse, administrator and advocate.
"There are some days I feel like I can't handle it anymore, I just want to give up, but I want to keep my husband at home as long as I can," she told CTV News this week.
And with only one income to support them both, money is tight around the household.
"The pressure some days is pretty awesome," she said.
The federal government has said that it's easing the crunch through a caregiver tax credit, which started on Jan. 1 this year.
The credit has been heavily promoted by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty as a way to lighten the financial burden on families and help give back to those who give so much.
"We recognize sacrifices many Canadian families make to care for their loved ones, and the expenses involved in doing so," Flaherty said this week.
But a closer look at the numbers reveals that the credit may not do much to help make ends meet.
The benefit gives a 15 per cent, non-refundable tax credit to those caring for family members. That can include spouses, common-law partners or children.
But added up, the credit amounts to just 82 cents per day, or about $300 annually.
For Boyd, that $300 credit would only cover a portion of the drug bill.
His wife Irene says "no way is it enough, not for anyone."
But perhaps more puzzling is that the lowest-income families may not even be able to access the credit.
"If you're already too low income to pay any tax, then you lose out, you can't access the credit," said Lisa Philipps, a tax law expert from Toronto's York University.
NDP MP Irene Mathyssen said that re-announcing the tax credit this week was designed to deflect criticism.
This month, the Conservatives have faced a public backlash against proposed changes to Old Age Security benefits
"They're very good at creating smokescreens and the illusion somehow they're looking after the needs of Canadians," said Mathyssen.
Still, some top charities like the Canadian Cancer Society have welcomed the $40-million credit, since it can give families a much-needed boost.
"The Harper government has taken an important first step towards supporting family caregivers, the invisible backbone of Canada's healthcare system," said the Canadian Cancer Society's Dan Demers.
"Family caregivers give so much to support their loved ones and it's unacceptable that they also have to deal with financial difficulties at such a difficult time."
With a report from CTV's Richard Madan