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Scheer promises EI tax credit for new parents if Conservatives form government

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Andrew Scheer

OTTAWA — Andrew Scheer made a pre-campaign play for parental votes Tuesday as he promised that a Conservative government would introduce a tax credit for new mothers and fathers receiving special employment insurance benefits so they can stay home with a new child.

The government taxes employment insurance benefits for new parents, along with any employer top-up, while on maternity or parental leave, although parents can be in for a surprise at tax time if not enough money was deducted off each payment.

What the Conservative leader proposed Tuesday — during an event at a Toronto daycare, surrounded by new and soon-to-be-mothers — is a non-refundable tax credit on 15 per cent of whatever a new parent earns while they are on leave to reduce their taxes at the end of the year.

It’s an idea he first unveiled through a private member’s bill in early 2018, part of an early gambit to encourage families to support the Conservatives in the Oct. 21 vote. He also vowed to keep the Canada Child Benefit.

The parliamentary budget officer calculated in May 2018 that Scheer’s plan would cost the federal treasury about $600 million in its first year, and $261 million in future years, since the plan would let families carry over any unused credits.

Scheer argued that the proposal would be a “significant tangible benefit” directly to parents to help ease the cost of caring for children in that first year — part of a larger theme of cost of living that he said will permeate the Conservative election platform.

“It is a Conservative principle to provide support directly to parents, that’s something that Liberals fought against for decades,” he said.

“Of course we’re going to continue to support that program (Canada Child Benefit) and any program that provides those child care dollars or support for raising children directly to parents.”

Polling data suggest Conservatives fare poorly with younger female voters — particularly ones who claimed the majority of the almost $4 billion in maternity and parental benefits the federal government doled out in 2017-18.

Offering those voters some additional financial help could help the party while also making it difficult for their opponents to attack the measure, said Christian Bourque, vice-president of Montreal polling firm Leger.

“What they’re announcing … actually targets the least likely voter for the Conservatives,” Bourque said. “They’re doing well among women 55-plus, so no need to throw money at them — that’s the other way of seeing it.”

EI covers 55 per cent of earnings, up to a maximum amount, over 12 months for those who have enough qualifying work hours to be eligible for benefits.

The Conservative proposal wouldn’t apply to any other benefits that new parents might mix in, such as caregiver benefits if a newborn falls ill, or sickness benefits for the parents themselves — those would remain taxed at the same rates.

Nor would there be any changes to an exemption that allows new parents to keep a portion of any extra cash they earn without losing too much of their benefits.

Scheer said that the value of the credit would put about $4,125 into the pockets of a parent earning on average $50,000. The figure is based on a 15 per cent credit on the 27,500 from EI — or 55 per cent of $50,000 income.

The parliamentary budget office previously said that the proposal, if implemented, would likely help those at higher income levels the most by reducing the amounts they owe. Those at lower income levels already pay little, if any, taxes.

Experts, labour and business groups have called for other changes to the parental leave system to allow more parents to qualify and boost the value of benefits paid out. As is, about one-quarter of mothers outside Quebec aren’t eligible for benefits because they don’t have enough qualifying hours.

Jennifer Robson, an associate professor of political management at Carleton University in Ottawa, questioned how much the Tory proposal would actually save at the end of the year. She also questioned how much it would help low-income parents, having spent years studying the EI maternity and parental benefits system.

“If you have a higher income before starting leave as a parent, you’re already more likely to qualify for EI. But 30 per cent of new moms don’t get $1 out of EI, even if they paid into it. Maybe there are better ways to help more families with infants?”

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Agriculture

What the USMCA Might Mean for Agriculture and Biotechnology?

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Canada, USA, Mexico flags

We welcome guest writers to all of our Todayville platforms. Here’s a submission from Emily Folk.  Emily is passionate about agricultural sustainability and more of her work can be found on her site, Conservation Folks. In this story, Emily Folk explains the USMCA Impact on Agriculture. 

What Could USMCA Mean for Agriculture and Biotechnology?

The United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) has been in the news a lot lately. The leaders of the respective nations signed the trade agreement on November 30, 2019, and ratification is pending. You can think of the USMCA as an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to renegotiate NAFTA after publicly speaking unfavourably about it. The USMCA is the result of that vow. The agreement spans several areas, such as the origin of automobile parts and new labor laws in Mexico that make it easier for workers to unionize. The USMCA also has a “sunset clause” that makes its terms expire after 16 years. Plus, every six years, the leaders of the countries involved must agree on whether to extend the deal.

Some agriculture-specific stipulations also exist within the USMCA. Additionally, the agreement notably mentions biotechnology. Here’s a closer look at how the USMCA might change these two industries.

More Exporting Opportunities for Farmers

One of the key points often mentioned about the USMCA is that parties expect the agreement to cause a $2 billion increase in U.S. agriculture exports, triggering a $65 billion rise in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Canada and Mexico are currently the top two exporting markets for American farmers, supporting more than 325,000 American jobs. In 2018, the food and agricultural exports destined for Canada and Mexico totaled more than $39.7 billion.

The USMCA also opens exporting opportunities that did not exist before. Now, U.S. dairy farmers will have expanded access to send products such as fluid and powdered milk, cheese and cream to Canadian parties. There will also no longer be U.S. tariffs on whey and margarine. This change is notable, considering the Canadian dairy market produced roughly 17% of the United States’ annual output over the past three years.

In exchange, Canada will give the United States new access to chicken and eggs, plus increased access to turkey. Plus, all other agriculture products traded between the U.S. and Mexico will be under a zero-tariff model.

Moving Forward With Agricultural Biotechnology

Another improvement associated with the USMCA is that it looks at agricultural technology more broadly than other trade agreements have.

For example, the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a proposed trade agreement between 12 nations — only addressed biotechnology regarding recombinant DNA (rDNA). That process involves joining the molecules from two different species, then inserting the product into a host to create new genetic combinations. Instead, the USMCA opens possibilities for all kinds of agricultural technology, including gene editing. Moving ahead with biotechnology could be crucial for addressing pressing matters that affect agriculture, such as water scarcity.

Approximately 700 million people suffer from water scarcity, and that number could double by 2025. Also, the agriculture industry is the greatest user of water. Things must change — both to address the growing water scarcity problem and to give farmers more options for growing things without using so much water.

Biotechnology has already helped, and it seems highly likely to continue spurring progress. In one example, scientists altered the expression of one gene common to all plants. This change led to a 25% increase in the plants’ water-use efficiency without adversely impacting yield or photosynthesis.

As part of the USMCA, Mexico, Canada and the United States agreed to improve information sharing and cooperation about biotechnology matters related to trade. That change could speed new developments, resulting in positive outcomes for all involved groups and the world at large.

Fairer Agricultural Grading Standards

A grading system for agricultural products defines trading procedures. For example, commercial buyers of a product grown in another country refer to the grading standards to set expectations about a product’s quality. The USMCA specifies that Canada will evaluate U.S. imported wheat and assign it a grade no less favourable than it would give Canadian-grown wheat.

Canada will also no longer require country of origin statements associated with inspection certificates or quality grades. The United States and Canada will discuss issues related to seed regulations under the USMCA, too.

Concerning Mexico and the United States, the two countries agreed to non-discriminatory grading standards and services. Moreover, a dialogue will begin between the two countries to flesh out the details for quality standards and grading regarding trade.

A Promising Future

It’s too early to say what the real-life effects will be of the changes outlined here. But, the commitments laid out within the USMCA seem like they’ll represent clear improvements for agriculture professionals, as well as everyone who benefits from their goods.

 

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.  You can read more of my work by clicking this link:   Conservation Folks.

 

 

 

Extreme Weather Patterns Causing State of Agricultural Emergency in Canada

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Agriculture

151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot

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VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.

The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.

The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.

“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.

He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.

An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.

A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.

James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.

Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.

“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.

James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.

“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”

James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.

Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.

The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.

“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”

James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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february, 2020

sun12jan(jan 12)2:00 pmsun22mar(mar 22)5:00 pmAnne Frank: A History for Today opening at Red Deer MAG(january 12) 2:00 pm - (march 22) 5:00 pm mst Red Deer Museum & Art Gallery Address: 4525 - 47A Avenue, Red Deer

sun02feb(feb 2)7:00 pmsun15mar(mar 15)8:00 pm7:00 pm - (march 15) 8:00 pm Festival Hall, 4214 58 St, Red Deer, AB Event Organized By: Country Pride Dance Club

fri28febsun01mar54th Annual Sport & Outdoor Show4:00 pm - (march 1) 9:00 pm

fri28feb6:00 pm11:00 pmFriday Family DanceFamily Dance6:00 pm - 11:00 pm

fri28feb7:00 pm11:00 pmBattle of the Bands for Crime Prevention7:00 pm - 11:00 pm Burgundy's Food & Stage, 5008 48 ST Event Organized By: The Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre

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