TORONTO – As Election Day nears, CTV News Toronto is taking a deeper look into the issues that matter most to local voters, breaking down the party promises as they apply to Battleground: GTA.

The Issue

Amid the whir of the compressor powering the inflatable castle, three toddlers throw their heads back in laughter as they literally bounce off the walls. Their moms, keeping a close eye from beyond the billowing turrets, enjoy a rare moment to sit still on the sidelines.

It is midday at a Danforth Avenue play centre, and new parents have parked their strollers at the door. Many of the thirty-somethings there are still on parental leave, while others are back to work. Some say they would have preferred to have stayed home with their kids longer than they did, but the parental leave benefits simply weren’t enough to sustain the family budget.

“To live in Toronto, it’s very hard,” Keila Paz told CTV News Toronto as her 14-month-old squirms.

Keila Paz

She took 12 months off with her son and felt the financial pinch of going without a full salary for the year.

“I received employment insurance (EI), but it was really hard adjusting to a new lifestyle.”

The Background

As more and more millennials begin families of their own, many are feeling the financial strain of raising kids in the city. The cost of living in the GTA can already be sky-high, and adding diapers and child care to the mix can stretch a paycheque – or in many cases, an EI deposit.

Knowing that many mothers and fathers will cast their ballots based on what’s in it for their kids, the federal parties are campaigning on cost-savings – making promises to parents.

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The Liberal Promise

The Liberals are pledging to make maternity and parental employment insurance benefits go further by removing federal taxes at the source.

Justin Trudeau

“You’ll get every dollar right when you need it, since no taxes will be taken off the EI cheque,” leader Justin Trudeau declared at a campaign stop Sept. 17.

“No one should have to choose between their paycheque and their family.”

The Liberals would introduce an additional 15 weeks of paid leave for adoptive parents to ensure they get the same benefit as birth parents. The party would also create a family leave plan for parents who don’t qualify for EI.

Trudeau has also pledged to boost the Canada Child Benefit, the monthly cheques designed to assist parents with the cost of raising kids. A re-elected Liberal government would increase the benefit by 15 per cent for children under the age of one, which the party calculates would save some families up to $1,000.

The Liberals are also promising to spend $535 million per year to create 250,000 before-and-after-school child-care spaces. Lowering the cost of these programs by 10 per cent would save an Ontario family of four $800, according to the party.

Ten per cent of the spaces would be dedicated to parents with shiftwork schedules.

“For the mom who works nights, for the dad who picks up extra shifts, for the single parent raising two kids while working two jobs,” Trudeau announced.

The Conservative Promise

Leader Andrew Scheer has vowed to remove the federal tax from parental leave EI cheques via a 15 per cent tax credit, effectively returning the deductions at tax time.

Andrew Scheer

If elected he would also extend EI benefits for adoptive parents by 15 weeks to match the full amount of parental leave afforded to birth parents.

A Conservative government would also reinstate the tax credits for children’s fitness and children’s arts to ease the cost of programming. The incentive would provide up to $150 back per child up to age 16 for sports and fitness classes, and up to $75 back on taxes per child up to age 16 in an arts class.

Scheer has also pledged to hike the federal contribution to registered education savings plans to 30 per cent from 20 per cent for every RESP dollar contributed by families, up to $2,500 annually.

“A more educated Canada is a better stronger more prosperous Canada,” Scheer said at his Sept. 17 announcement.

“Every dollar counts.”

The NDP Promise

A New Democrat government would enhance parental leave benefits by upping the income replacement to 60 per cent from 55 per cent, and would also offer more flexibility by providing the option of a shorter parental leave period with the same financial benefit.

Jagmeet Singh

The NDP is also touting an ambitious plan for child care: free or low-cost daycare for everyone by 2030.

“Our goal is to get to universality,” leader Jagmeet Singh said Sept. 30. “No cost for some families who can’t afford it, and a low cost like $10 a day for families who can.”

Singh’s platform also calls for $10 billion to be spent over the next four years to create 500,000 new child care spaces.

“Particularly with an emphasis on where there’s no child care at all,” Singh said. “We need to make sure there’s investments to build affordable child care there.”

The Green Promise

The Green Party is promising a path to universal child care through collaboration with the provincial and municipal governments.

Leader Elizabeth May said her party would boost child care funding by $1 billion annually until it reaches one per cent of the Canadian gross domestic product.