The federal Liberals say booklets Conservative MPs are distributing in their ridings laying out a long list of tax credits Canadians should apply for when they file their taxes have a glaring omission: the new carbon-tax rebate that applies in four provinces.
“That’s atrocious,” said Liberal Rob Oliphant, who found out about the brochures because one of the constituents in his Toronto riding has a vacation property in the riding of Tory MP Jamie Schmale.
The 11-page document says on the front: “2018 Tax Guide. Claim everything you qualify for!” Inside, a note from Schmale says his goal is to make filing taxes simple and that the guide contains information “to help you identify which tax initiatives are available to you and understand the changes that have taken place.”
The brochure lists more than 30 tax benefits, from child-care deductions to medical expenses and meal claims for long-haul truck drivers. There is much emphasis on tax credits introduced by the former Conservative government and ones the Liberals eliminated, such as credits for children’s arts and sports programs, and for riding public transit. Nowhere at all is the carbon rebate, which can be worth hundreds of dollars, mentioned.
Similar brochures were sent in at least three other Ontario ridings held by Conservatives.
The Conservative Party policy is to end the carbon tax as soon as possible, arguing it just makes everything more expensive and won’t do anything to reduce emissions.
A party spokeswoman didn’t directly explain why the carbon rebate was missing from the brochures.
“Conservatives have been clear that we do not support the Liberal Carbon Tax and that we will scrap it when we form government this fall,” Kelsie Chiasson said in an e-mail.
The “climate action incentive” is available to anyone living in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario or New Brunswick, to rebate to individual households 90 per cent of the revenues raised by the federal carbon tax. Those are the provinces that don’t have equivalent provincial prices on greenhouse-gas emissions and are being subjected to the federal version instead.
The rebate is the same regardless of income, varying only by province (because carbon-tax bills will vary depending on electricity sources, climate and other such factors) and family size. The average rebate will be $248 in New Brunswick, $300 in Ontario, $336 in Manitoba and $598 in Saskatchewan.
People living outside major cities can apply for an extra 10 per cent to account for their need to drive greater distances and their limited access to public transit.
The Liberals say most people will get more back from the rebate than they pay in carbon taxes, with only heavy users of fossil fuels seeing losses. They also point to the rebates as proof they aren’t trying to make life more expensive, but rather giving people an incentive to reduce energy use, pay less tax, and come out ahead.
Oliphant said the brochures are being funded by taxpayers as part of MPs’ office budgets, and people are trusting the information to be complete. But he said the idea of a carbon rebate doesn’t fit with the Tories’ claim that carbon taxes will make everything cost more and the omission “feels dishonest.”
“They won’t even admit that it exists,” he said. “This is wrong.”
Lisa Gittens, a senior tax professional at H&R Block, said the climate-action incentive is the one really new credit available on tax forms this year. She said people filing taxes using online software or with the help of professional accountants likely won’t miss the rebate even if they don’t know about it, because it will be automatically calculated once they enter their provinces and the sizes of their families.
She said people will have to check off a box indicating they live outside a major city to get the extra 10 per cent, which some people might miss, particularly if they are filling out their own forms on paper.
Last year about 13 per cent of Canadians filed their taxes the old-fashioned paper way, while 86 per cent used some form of electronic filing.