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Alberta NDP promises $500 tax credit per child for sports, extracurricular activities

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley is promising a tax credit for families of $500 per child, per year, to support the cost of sports and other extracurricular activities.

Among the activities that would be eligible, said the NDP, would be swimming lessons, hockey and ringette registrations, and indoor climbing membership fees. Activities like science camps, music lessons, dance classes would also be covered by the tax credit

“I know these days parents are making hard decisions because they can’t afford all the opportunities they want for their kids,” said Notley.

The NDP said that Albertans would not have to register for the tax credit, but that only one earner in a family would be able to claim the credit.

They said that the tax credit was designed to be broad and inclusive in its scope, covering a wide variety of activities up to $500.

The projected investment by the government into the tax credit would be $150 million per year, and would come into effect on January 1, 2024.

Notley said that issuing a tax credit was the easiest way for the province to administer a support program for parents.

“A grant program, which requires a whole other level of bureaucracy and administration—a tax credit can be done very, very simply, relatively, so that is the point.”

As a tax-refundable credit, the Kids Activity Tax Credit would potentially reduce the tax liability for low-income Albertans below zero, resulting in refunds paid to parents regardless if they owe no taxes to begin with.

Government would monitor for effectiveness, make changes as needed for low-income families

Notley said that the government would monitor the tax credit for its use, and if low-income families aren’t taking advantage of it, they would revisit the program by working with sports and cultural organizations to find other incentives.

“I do absolutely hear the issue around families that don’t necessarily access tax credits, or who can’t wait for the tax credit because that’s the other issue.”

She said that the NDP is hoping that the tax credit program would incentivize on the supply side, with leading sports and non-profit organizations expanding their offerings to meet increased demand from parents.

A similar tax program had been promised and then implemented by the federal Conservative Party under Stephen Harper in 2008, which offered a $500 tax credit for children under 16 to take part in artistic activities.

A similar program was promised by then-Conservative leader Andrew Sheer in 2019, offering a $500 tax credit for sports activities and $1,000 for artistic programs as a resurrection of the former program.

The federal Liberal party had cancelled the Harper era tax credit, saying that it had not made a meaningful effect on increasing the number of children taking part in sports.

Replacement of the Community Facility Enhancement Program

The party said the tax credit was building on what they called their Hometown Alberta plan, which would build new and improve existing local community facilities across the province.

“Under Hometown Alberta, the province would support everything from building new hockey rinks to expanding the local Expo grounds to improvements at Native Friendship Centres across southern Alberta,” said Shannon Phillips, Alberta NDP candidate for Lethbridge-West.

“It means better soccer fields and nicer community halls.”

The NDP said that their Hometown Alberta plan would in part enhance, and in part replace the existing Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP).

The Hometown Alberta plan would increase the CFEP cap of $50 million per year to $75 million, and add a third stream with a $100 million cap designed for projects with larger capital requirements, such as municipalities and non-profits to build larger facilities.

Currently, the small projects side of CFEP has a project budget maximum of $125,000, and the large project side is between $125,000 and $1 million.

In the 2021 through 2023 fiscal years, CFEP provided four large grants to Calgary organizations for a total of $1,635,000, and 85 smaller grants for a total of $5,848,540.

The program would cover facilities including community halls, legion halls, senior centres, recreation and sport complexes, museums, art and cultural centres, playgrounds, places of worship, and non-profit centres.