Tories to pitch change to benefits clawback for disabled people who want to work

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives will keep rolling out policy this week, with the latest move in their playbook — a new approach to disabilities benefits — expected to be detailed later today.

The pitch will come in the form of a private member’s bill sponsored by Tory finance critic Pierre Poilievre.

A Conservative source tells The Canadian Press the idea is to ensure people with disabilities aren’t at risk of losing their benefits if they seek to work longer hours or for a higher rate of pay than currently allowed.

Poilievre’s bill will be introduced in tandem with one from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who last week put forward the idea to stop taxing employment insurance benefits accessed by those on parental leave.

Both measures are part of the Conservatives’ efforts to start presenting proposals they say will go further than the Liberals’ approach to helping the middle class.

The Tories argue the government’s policies hurt more than they help, and they are offering up new tax changes as a way to undo that damage.

The new policies also, however, harken back to the Harper Conservatives’ strategy of offering niche tax breaks as incentives to targeted pools of voters — a strategy the Liberals have argued voters rejected in the 2015 election.

On Tuesday, the Conservatives plan to once again remind Canadians about the 2016 vacation that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family took on the private Bahamian island of the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims.

The federal ethics commissioner concluded late last year that Trudeau violated conflict-of-interest rules when he went on the trip — reportedly at a cost of more than $200,000, including security and transportation — without seeking her approval ahead of the time.

Trudeau has acknowledged he should have taken those precautions, and said he will be clearing all future family vacations through the ethics watchdog.

The Conservatives will devote their Opposition day motion to convincing the House of Commons that any MP who violates the Conflict of Interest Act should have to reimburse any related costs incurred by taxpayers.

The Prime Minister’s Office has previously said Trudeau reimbursed the commercial equivalent of his and his family’s flights to and from Nassau, which is standard practice. Government House Leader Bardish Chagger also said last week the security costs are necessary when the prime minister travels.

Conservative MP Peter Kent, the ethics critic, said he understands the prime minister requires security, but that the money would not have been spent if he had not gone on the trip.

“He could have gone to another sun-and-sand location without nearly the remote and access challenges that Bell Island presented,” Kent said.

The policy ideas and political plays come as the Conservatives struggle with the fact that two former MPs have been accused of sexual misconduct dating back to their time on Parliament Hill.

Both former prime minister Stephen Harper and his former chief of staff Ray Novak have now publicly admitted they were aware of allegations against one MP, Rick Dykstra.

But in statements late Friday night, both said they allowed Dykstra to remain a candidate in the 2015 election because no criminal charges had been laid.

Dykstra has denied the allegations.

Another former Tory MP, Patrick Brown, is also facing accusations he denied, but which forced him to step down as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

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