Michael Ignatieff is pledging to invest $1-billion every year to help families look after their sick relatives at home without losing their jobs or their life-savings.
In a carefully orchestrated photo op Tuesday morning, the Liberal Leader revealed his Family Care Plan, which is to form a major plank in the party's election platform.
The Liberals are trying to position themselves as the party that cares about Canadian families and their future in contrast to Stephen Harper's Conservatives, who are providing tax breaks to big corporations.
Mr. Ignatieff's plan includes a six-month Family Care Employment Insurance Benefit, which the Liberals say is similar to the EI parental leave benefit. It would allow a daughter or son, or a wife or husband, to look after a parent at home without having to quit their jobs.
It replaces the six-week compassionate care provision now provided under EI. Liberals estimate it will cost $250-million a year and help 30,000 caregivers; EI premiums would not increase to fund this, they say.
In addition, the plan calls for a Family Care Tax Benefit, which the Liberals describe as modeled on the Child Tax Benefit. It is aimed at low and middle income family caregivers "who provide essential care to a family member at home."
It's a tax-free monthly payment worth up to $1,350 a year that would be available to caregivers with family incomes under $106,000. The Liberals say it would cost $750-million a year.
Mr. Ignatieff's team has been laying groundwork around this policy since the summer, characterizing the Tories as more willing to spend money on stealth planes than Canadian families.
The Liberals note that there are 2.7 million Canadians who provide care for seniors. It's estimated this will increase by one-third by 2017, Canada's 150th birthday. They say over 40 per cent of caregivers use their personal savings and one quarter of them miss one of more months of work.