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Fact-checking the Liberals: Tax credit for school supply purchases

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Image: Flickr/Joanne Johnson

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The 2015 federal election promises to be an ugly fight, with a lot of half-truths and fact twisting. This has been the tone set by the Harper government so far, and it shows no sign of changing course. Luckily, rabble.ca together with our allies will be pulling together real numbers and evidence to refute the mistruths and fact check the election campaign.

While in Brampton on a campaign stop, Justin Trudeau announced that a new Liberal government would give teachers a tax credit if they purchase items for their classrooms. The credit would top out at $150 for $1,000 spent.

The $1,000 ceiling is pretty generous. According to a 2010 study from the Canadian Teachers' Federation (CTF), average spending by teachers for back to school was $453.

There are 756,900 teachers in Canada. If they all claimed the maximum (which is unlikely), the program would cost $113.5 million. If we imagine that the CTF numbers are a good reflection of the average spending, they will more likely receive less than half of the $150, at a total cost of around $52 million. The Liberals announced that they would budget $60 million for the program. On average, teachers will receive about $70.

Teacher unions have in the past called for a tax break for school supplies. The Liberals are modeling the program on the tax credit that already exists in Prince Edward Island.

What this promise misses is the fact that teachers should not be paying for any school items; governments should be. An increase to transfer payments for education might be a harder political promise to peddle, but it would go much further than giving out tax credits to teachers. And, it doesn't account for the fact that higher-paid teachers who have been teaching longer are likely spending less than lower-paid new teachers. This is important, as it's often the new teachers that have to spend the most to outfit a new classroom.

While it's unacceptable for teachers to have to pay for classroom supplies out-of-pocket, they are not hit the hardest by back-to-school costs. In 2013, household spending for back-to-school clothing was $1.6 billion and the average per-student cost for supplies and other fees is $1,400. Despite reference to children in the title of their release, this announcement will not directly help children. 

Here's a list of what Buzzfeed has identified as the most commonly purchased materials from one teacher that are not obviously included in the Liberal press release:

  • Kleenex
  • Photocopies
  • Hand soap and sanitizer
  • Pencils
  • Erasers
  • Glue
  • Snacks and prizes
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Scissors
  • Paper and notebooks

 

Verdict:

 

 

 

Image: Flickr/Joanne Johnson

Want to see an election campaign fact rich and spin poor? Chip in to keep our fact check blog up to date.

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