The three main political parties are targeting families and their pocketbooks this election campaign, as they make their pitches to Canadian parents.

Each of the leaders held their own version of the adorable, kid-adorned press conference this week, where they made more promises for middle-class families. While election announcements are never big on details, experts say they evoke emotion -- this week, from families.

And voters can expect more announcements along these lines as the marathon election campaign enters its fourth week.

Here’s a summary of the parties’ election promises for families so far.


- Aug. 20: Harper promised to make adoptions more affordable, vowing to boost the Adoption Expense Tax Credit. Currently, the tax credit allows families to claim 15 per cent of adoption costs up to a maximum of $15,000, on a non-refundable basis. If re-elected, the Harper government would raise that limit to $20,000, and make it fully refundable.

- Aug. 12: The Conservatives promise to raise to $35,000 the amount that first-time home buyers can withdraw tax free from their Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to buy a house. The current limit is $25,000. In the same announcement, Harper pledged $500,000 to track foreign home ownership in Canada to ensure that foreign buyers don't skew the market against Canadians.

- Aug. 4: If re-elected, Harper says he will make the temporary home-renovation tax credit, introduced in 2009, permanent. The initiative would cost $1.5 billion a year, and depend on a strengthened economy. The tax credit would apply to renovations costing between $1,000 and $5,000, down from $10,000 in 2009.


- Aug. 20: NDP Leader Tom Mulcair announces that, if elected, he will create a million child care spaces over eight years, including 100,000 spaces in B.C., which has some of the highest daycare costs in Canada. Parents would pay no more than $15 a day for the care. The NDP has not said how it will pay for the plan, leaving daycare operators wondering how it will work.


- Aug. 20: If elected, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says his party would invest $190 million to expand eligibility for employment insurance compassionate care benefits, a six-month paid leave available to any Canadian who provides care to a seriously ill family member. Trudeau’s plan would make the benefit more flexible by allowing it to be claimed in incrementally over a one-year period, rather than all at once.

- Aug. 19: Trudeau promises to change labour laws to allow employees in federally regulated industries to have the right to ask their employer for more flexible working hours, as well as the ability to work from home. The pledge, which would cost $125 million per year, is meant to help families balance work and home life.

-Aug. 17: Trudeau pledges to lower taxes for the middle class, saying he will cut the federal income tax rate to 20.5 per cent for Canadians earning between $44,7000 and $89,401. Trudeau says he would pay for the tax cut by raising taxes on the richest one per cent. He also announced that a Liberal government would replace the Conservatives’ universal child benefit with a single, tax-free child benefit, meant to provide more to families who need the most help. No other details have been provided on the child-care plan.

Family policy commitments 'weak': expert

Speaking to CTV’s Power Play on Friday, Paul Kershaw, interim associate director of family policy research at the University of British Columbia, said he evaluates family-targeted policies on three bases.

“Are they helping ease families’ time squeeze, especially time at home? Are they helping ease their service squeeze -- getting access to things like child care? And are they helping them with their income squeeze?”

On that basis, Kershaw says the three major parties’ family promises are weak. For instance, he said Harper’s vow to boost the adoption tax credit will only give affected families -- a “very small group of people in Canada” -- an extra $750 a year.

“The degree to which that eases their income squeeze is a really open question,” said Kershaw.

And compared to the NDP’s child care promise, Kershaw says the Green Party’s policy is more realistic.

“I would actually argue the Greens have outpaced the NDP because the Greens are talking about having real money to do child care services earlier. They’re talking about six, seven billion dollars relatively quickly,” said Kershaw.

“Whereas it would actually take almost two full election cycles before the NDP have the dollars to do half of really what’s required to build a $15 a day child care system.”

While Kershaw gave the Liberals credit for addressing the issue of parental leave, he said $125 million is not enough to build a strong program. With families losing an average of $15,000 a year to take time off to raise a baby, he said billions of dollars is needed to improve the parental leave system.

Despite his criticisms, Kershaw said it’s good that the leaders are having conversations about child care and parental leave during this election campaign.

With files from the Canadian Press