Canada’s minister of social development visited Whitehorse last week to encourage families to sign up for the universal child care benefit program.
Last October the federal government increased the program’s coverage. It used to be for families with children under six, who received a $100 monthly payment.
Now for every child under six, a family will receive a $160 monthly-payment, and for every child between six and 17, a $60 payment.
“There are 800 families in this territory that are eligible for these cash payments but who will not get that money until they register,” said Pierre Poilievre at a news conference.
Because of the program expansion, some of the families are not in the government’s database, and won’t automatically receive the payment, he said.
“Eight hundred seems like an awful lot,” said Carol Church, owner and operator of the city’s H&R Block, in an interview afterwards. She said she’s seen some of the letters being sent to families who qualify but who haven’t applied yet.
“Revenue Canada must know who they are,” she said.
Asked whether this announcement was part of a pre-election campaign, Yukon MP Ryan Leef, who was alongside Poilievre, said this announcement took place because the government had balanced the budget.
“The timing has almost everything to do with the fact we balanced the budget and it’s time to put some of that money in the pockets of hardworking families,” said Leef.
When Poilievre was asked why it was necessary for him to fly to Whitehorse to make an announcement about a program already announced eight months ago, Leef answered for him.
“You can’t put a price tag on the value of having a federal minister here, listening to Yukoners, talking directly to them,” he said.
“We’re as far removed from Ottawa as you can possibly get.”
Poilievre was also scheduled to attend the Adaka festival and was to meet with the business community, Leef added. “We’ve filled the minister’s schedule for today.”
There is no firm deadline for families to receive the money – the program is retroactive and a payment for the money from January 2015 up to now will be sent out on July 20.
“The sooner you sign up, the sooner you get your money,” said Poilievre.
Last March, Canada’s parliamentary budget officer, Jean-Denis Frechette, criticized the government’s measure, noting the program expansion would benefit families with little to no child care costs.
“Many of the families that benefit from federal child-care initiatives do not incur child-care expenses,” Frechette told the Toronto Star.
He also noted the cost of the program would go from $3.3 billion in 2013-2014 to $7.9 billion in 2017-2018.
Poilievre lauded Leef’s work in the Yukon to help residents receive these benefits. He urged Yukoners to call Leef if they have questions about the program.
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