NDP critic Cathy Sproule.

The government of Saskatchewan has released its annual budget and one of the big changes will be to the Active Families Benefit. Only families that have net combined incomes up to $60,000 will be eligible for the program.

 

In previous years there was no income-based restriction on the program.

 

The program is designed to provide a refundable personal income tax credit to assist families with children playing sports and involved in arts programs. The rebate was up to $150 per child per year under 18 years of age for eligible registration fees.

 

The program was meant to encourage youth participation in sports and assist families with the high cost of registration.

 

It was meant to help reduce barriers, promote access and encourage children to participate in activities that are vital to healthy, active living.

 

Now Mark Docherty, minister of parks, culture and sports, sees this as a way for the government to focus attention on the families that are in need.

 

“We decided we’re going to income test it. So anyone that’s a family earning less than $60,000 we wanted to make sure that the low income families and vulnerable families still had access to that benefit and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” he said.

 

Cathy Sproule, the NDP critic of parks, culture and sports said this change will cause more kids and families to be left out of the incentive.

 

“This is only for people who have a need for tax benefits, so families that have enough income to be paying those taxes, there’s a bunch of kids still falling through the cracks,” said Sproule. “Limiting it now on an income basis will still shut out a lot of kids. If you think about it a family of four with a $65,000 income with huge mortgage payments and everything else increasing prices, it’s still going to be tough to put a kid in soccer and ballet.”

 

One of the questions about the program change was how the government came up with the dollar amount for the threshold. Minster Docherty explained the strategy the government used when it came to deciding the number.

 

“We worked with the ministry of finance and came up with that number of $60,000. It was also based on a significant amount of participants, so we found that that was a good line to capture an awful lot of people.”

 

Saskatchewan has one of the highest obesity rates in Canada at 31.6 per cent according to a Statistics Canada Report. Sproule said this change will make it more difficult to get kids participating in physical activity.