WATCH: Many experts believe the government’s single-minded focus on balancing the budget may not be the best path. Jacques Bourbeau explains.
OTTAWA — The Harper government’s 2015 budget will include changes to help Canadians take more time off work to help care for dying family members, Global News has learned.
As it stands, compassionate care benefits under the Employment Insurance program provide a maximum of six weeks pay. Tuesday’s budget, however, will “significantly extend the duration” the amount of time, a source said.
How many more weeks and how much this initiative will cost was not made clear.
The Conservatives will, at long last on Tuesday, unveil their 2015 budget — a document expected to spell out how the government intends to reach a surplus by the end of the year and, as always, offer a few goodies.
This budget is notable for a few reasons: it’s Joe Oliver’s first budget as finance minister, but the 10th Stephen Harper’s government has tabled; it’s the last the party will present before heading out on the campaign trail in a few months; and it is being announced three weeks into the fiscal year — unconventional timing blamed on volatile oil prices.
But, like in 2011, this year’s budget will reflect the Conservatives’ election platform, providing a look at the policies and promises the Harper government hopes will help keep voters on its side.
So while budgets past have seen cuts to the public service and social programs, Canadians could reasonably expect to see a couple of items that might help some pad their pocket books.
In fact, the Conservatives have already announced a few measures they say benefit Canadian families.
WATCH: What we know will be in the federal budget, what we expect and where the question marks remain.
There is the income splitting scheme, a $2 billion per year commitment that has been widely criticized for benefiting as few as 15 per cent of Canadian families —mostly those that are already well off.
The Conservatives have also promised to boost the Universal Child Care Benefit, and to double the Child Fitness Tax credit. Together, those benefits are projected to cost more than $5 billion per year.
READ MORE: Full federal budget coverage
And yes, there may be room for more, even though the projected surplus published in the 2014 budget was $6.4 billion. During the 2011 campaign Harper made a handful of tax promises that were all contingent on balancing the budget, including income splitting and the fitness benefit for kids.
Still up in the air from that list are the adult fitness tax credit and doubling the ceiling for Tax Free Savings Account contributions to $10,000 per year.
Conservative cabinet ministers haven’t said whether municipalities will see the $1 billion a year for infrastructure the mayors have long requested.
What’s also a bit of a mystery is how much of a surplus the federal books will actually see. Despite the 2014 estimate, the latest fiscal monitor, found a surplus of $2.2 billion. That report was released in January and was virtually unchanged year-over-year.
The fiscal monitor for the year-to-date, from April 2014 to January 2015, however, indicated a surplus of $1.3 billion.
Last November, Oliver forecast a budget surplus of $1.9 billion for 2015, but his estimates were based on an oil price closer to US$90 a barrel, a figure that has since fallen sharply. The May futures contract closed below US$50 earlier this month.