The Federal budget was released this past week against the backdrop of a devastating third wave in this pandemic, and a surge of COVID-19 cases across the country.
As communities struggle to deal with business closures, job losses, transitions from in-school learning to virtual learning, and lockdowns, there have been pleas from various sectors of the country looking for urgent and much needed relief from economic uncertainty.
One federal promise, that this Liberal government has made before, was included in this budget which was more than 700 pages long, and that was a commitment to make childcare more affordable. In 1970, a national child care system was recommended by the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, while Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister. After 51 years, there may finally be some action on this file, with the Liberal government’s proposal to invest $30 billion over five years, and $8.3 billion per year after that, to create and sustain a national child care program. The goal is to bring the cost of childcare to $10 a day by 2025-2026.
NDP party leader, Jagmeet Singh, announced that the NDP would support the budget, even though it left out items that the party was hoping to have included, such as a national pharmacare program and a universal basic income. The three-member Green Party Caucus, in a budget submission to the Finance Minister, called for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to be transformed into a Guaranteed Livable Income, and outlined specific expenditures to address climate change and move to a green economy, including a massive investment in renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, geothermal, and run-of-the river hydro.
There was a big focus on economic transition to a green economy with $101.4 billion in new spending over three years, and there will also be interest free loans to homeowners of up to $40,000 to upgrade housing with green retrofits. Pandemic business and income support measures, such as wage and rent subsidies, will also continue into the fall of this year.
One big ticket item in this budget included $236.2 million over five years, and $33.5 million per year afterward, for the departments of National Defence and Veterans Affairs to eliminate sexual misconduct and gender-based violence in the military, and to support survivors. This budget also introduces a new $15 per hour federal minimum wage.
Aside from spending promises, the budget also contained a number of other legislative proposals including one to amend the Judges Act, to freeze a judge’s pension entitlements, as of the date the Canadian Judicial Council recommends a judge’s removal from office. There is a measure to address First Nation Band Council election terms, and a commitment of $125.2 million over four years, beginning in 2022-23, to support First Nations communities’ reliable access to clean water.
There are proposed measures to crack down on charities the government believes are affiliated with terrorist organizations. Budget 2021 also introduces amendments to the Canada Elections Act to specify, “that making or publishing a false statement in relation to a candidate, prospective candidate, or party leader would be an offence only if the person or entity knows that the statement is false.”
The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada could also receive new authority under this budget to use ministerial instructions to help select candidates who align with Canada’s labour market needs from among those who wish to become permanent residents through the Express Entry System. The budget has yet to pass through voting in the House of Commons.