The federal Liberal government introduced its third budget last Tuesday, February 27.
The Budget and all associated documents are available at this link: https://www.budget.gc.ca/2018/docs/nrc/2018-02-27-en.html
Here are a few highlights on income security and related issues. This list is not exhaustive – some helpful resources are included at the end of this email that can provide more information and analysis.
The Budget makes a commitment of $23 million over two years to increase funding for Canadian Heritage’s Multiculturalism Program to “support cross-country consultations on a new national anti-racism approach, bring together experts, community organizations, citizens and interfaith leaders to find new ways to collaborate and combat discrimination, and dedicate increased funds to address racism and discrimination targeted against Indigenous Peoples and women and girls”.
This Budget also commits to $19 million over five years for local community supports for youth at risk and research for mental health programs to serve the Black Canadian community.
As well, the Budget commits to increase the disaggregation of data sets by race.
Information about these commitments is on page 182 of the Budget.
An article about this issue is here: https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/liberals-budget-includes-23m-for-multiculturalism-anti-racism-strategy-1.3823101
Canada Child Benefit
While no new investments are being made to bolster the base maximum annual amounts of the Canada Child Benefit (which are currently $6,400 for children under 6 and $5,400 for children 6-17), the Budget announced that government is going to undertake outreach to Indigenous communities to ensure better access to the CCB and all federal programs. As previously announced, the CCB will be indexed to inflation starting in July 2018.
Discussion of the CCB starts on page 35 of the Budget.
A backgrounder is available here: https://www.fin.gc.ca/n18/docs/18-008_4-eng.pdf.
Canada Workers Benefit
The Budget announced that the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) for low-income workers is being strengthened and renamed. As well, more money will be invested beyond amounts promised last year to offset the expansion of CPP.
The new benefit will come into effect in June 2019 and will mean up to an additional $500 per year for low income workers. The CWB disability supplement will add an additional $160 for low-income workers with disabilities.
The maximum CWB will be $1,355 for unattached workers and $2,335 for couples or single parents. The Budget indicates that 2 million workers will benefit from the CWB and estimates that it will lift 70,000 Canadians out of poverty.
The CWB remains a refundable tax credit that is available only to those who file tax returns. Workers won’t see the funds until they file their 2019 taxes in 2020.
The Budget indicates that government will be looking over the next year to make the CWB available as a monthly benefit rather than an annual refund. The Budget also indicates that changes will be made to allow the CRA to calculate the CWB for taxfilers who don’t claim it.
Discussion of the CWB in the Budget starts on page 32.
A backgrounder is available here: https://www.fin.gc.ca/n18/docs/18-008_5-eng.pdf.
Unfortunately, the Budget did not include increases in investments in early learning and childcare. Child care advocates had been calling for an investment of $1 billion in new money this year. The lack of investment clearly runs counter to the government’s narrative that this Budget was based on a gender analysis.
A response to the Budget from Child Care Now is here: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/Federal%20Budget%20media%20release%20Feb%2027%202018.pdf
No new money was announced for affordable housing beyond what was already promised in previous budgets. However, new money for on-reserve housing, housing in the North, and housing for Metis people, as part of federal housing strategies for each group.
The Budget did announce an increase in loans for the construction of rental housing projects that support “modest- and middle-income households” in expensive housing markets.
The Indigenous housing commitments are on page 133 of the Budget, and the loans program section starts on page 39.
Further information is available here: http://behindthenumbers.ca/2018/02/27/five-things-know-2018-federal-budget/ and here: http://newsroom.calgaryhomeless.com/press-releases/calgary-homeless-foundations-initial-reflections-on-federal-budget-2018-gnw_2126742_001.
$5 billion over five years was pledged in the budget for new funding for First Nations child and family services, clean drinking water on reserves, health programs and acute health issues, and employment and economic opportunities, in addition to the housing investments noted below. Funds to strengthen First Nations governance are also included.
The Budget outlines these commitments in a chapter on Reconciliation, which starts on page 125.
Comments from Cindy Blackstock about the funds for child and family services are available in this article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/blackstock-budget-child-welfare-1.4556752.
A column by Pam Palmater is here: http://torontosun.com/opinion/columnists/guest-column-feds-2018-budget-misses-mark-on-first-nations-issues.
Reaction to the Budget from Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day is here: http://www.chiefs-of-ontario.org/news_item/ontario-regional-isadore-day-reacts-to-2018-federal-budget-reconciliation-means-government-deliverology-of-promised-billions-for-housing-child-welfare-clean-water-employment-and/
Reaction from the Assembly of First Nations is here: http://www.afn.ca/2018/02/28/budget-2018-makes-essential-investments-first-nations-children-investments-strengthen-first-nations-governments/
The new “use-it-or-lose-it” Employment Insurance Parental Sharing Benefit will provide five additional weeks of parental leave, to a maximum of 40 weeks, when the second parent agrees to take at least five weeks off. As has been reported widely, this is intended as an incentive for new fathers to take parental leave and contribute to greater gender equity. As the CCPA’s 2018 Alternative Federal Budget noted, “Research shows that Quebec fathers are far more likely to take parental leaves than fathers in the rest of Canada. In 2015, 86% of working fathers claimed or intended to claim paid parental leave in Quebec, compared to only 12% of working fathers in the rest of Canada. A study found that an increase in the number of Quebec fathers taking leave had lasting effects on the division of unpaid labour within the home, resulting in more balance between unpaid and paid work responsibilities for opposite sex spouses. Fathers who took parental leave spent more time doing unpaid work and their spouses spent more time in paid work.”
The new benefit starts June 2019. It is available to two-parent families, including adoptive and same-sex couples. No increases were made to the amount of benefits that people can claim (the “replacement rate”), which stays at a low 55% of wages. No additional supports were announced for single parents.
This new benefit is separate from last year’s announcement of the choice for parents to extend their parental leave to 61 weeks over 18 months at a lower replacement rate of 33% of wages. In cases where parents choose the extended option, the new Parental Sharing benefit would allow for an additional eight weeks at 33% of earnings.
The Parental Sharing Benefit is discussed in the Budget starting on page 45.
A backgrounder on the Parental Sharing Benefit is here: https://www.fin.gc.ca/n18/docs/18-008_6-eng.pdf
$240 million is being transferred to the Atlantic provinces that are seeing a problem with “leave exhaustees” – i.e., seasonal workers who run out of EI before their seasonal work starts up again.
The “Working While on Claim” pilot will now be permanent and is being expanded to include those on maternity leave and sick leave; those on parental leave are already eligible. This program allows claimants to keep 50 cents on every dollar they earn while on claim up to a maximum. Claimants will continue to be able to choose the rules that work best for them (between this program and an earlier pilot) until 2021. Government expects that the EI program will save $467 million over 5 years with the Working While on Claim option.
$218 million will be invested over three years to improve access to and quality at EI call-centres and to ensure that benefit payments are accurate and made on time. This investment in improving service quality is a direct result of advocacy by advocates from across the country, which led to the EI Service Quality Review conducted by 3 MPs. ISAC organized a roundtable with other EI advocates in Toronto as part of that review. The report was released in February 2017 and confirmed that under-resourcing of the department that administers the program led to delays, mistakes and created barriers to accessing the program.
It’s worth noting that no investments are being made to improve the adequacy of EI regular benefits or to deal with the exclusion of many workers from EI eligibility, particularly given that, nationally, only 32% of unemployed women access regular EI benefits. In major urban centres, that figure stands at around 21% for all unemployed workers.
These issues are discussed in the Budget on page 56 and 191/192.
Here’s an analysis on Employment Insurance issues from CUPE: https://cupe.ca/budget-2018-depth-employment-insurance
The Budget includes annualization of previously-announced stop-gap funding for refugee law services, with a slight increase in the amount of funding provided. The Budget also pledged continuation of current criminal law funding. And while immigration law funding will also continue, there is unfortunately no new money for legal aid in other areas of civil law – i.e., poverty law and family law.
The Budget discusses legal aid funding on pages 196 and 200.
The Budget promised legislation on pay equity this year for workers in federally regulated sectors. It estimates a reduction in the gender wage gap by about 3 cents for those workers.
Pay equity is discussed on page 43 of the Budget.
A backgrounder is available here: https://www.fin.gc.ca/n18/docs/18-008_7-eng.pdf
CUPE’s analysis on pay equity is here: https://cupe.ca/pay-equity-promising-budget-2018-still-falls-far-short-too-many-working-canadians.
The Budget announced the creation of an Advisory Council on implementation of a National Pharmacare Program, headed up by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins. The Advisory Council is to hold nation-wide consultations and conduct research over the next year and report back in spring 2019.
Finance Minister Morneau has since claimed that the government’s intention is not to create a universal program but rather to “fill in the gaps” in coverage. He is taking a lot of heat for that position and for seemingly pre-determining the conclusions of the Advisory Council.
The Advisory Council is discussed on page 172 of the Budget.
Information about the initial announcement is in this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/02/27/canada-budget-2018-lays-foundation-for-universal-pharmacare-plan_a_23372598/
While the federal government has made a commitment to enact a Canada Poverty Reduction Strategy and engaged in consultations last year, the Budget makes no specific investments in support of an upcoming strategy and there are few indications about when the Strategy will be announced.
More information about poverty reduction is on the government’s webpage here: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/campaigns/poverty-reduction.html
The Budget announced new money to improve the quality of data collection at Stats Can. This includes funds for the 2021 census and “modernization” efforts over five years. This includes a new Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics to gather data related to gender and diversity and promote gender-based analysis across government, and funds for Status of Women Canada.
Information about these commitments is on page 186 of the Budget.
The Budget announced some efforts to make the tax system fairer. A few tax loopholes were closed, including anti-avoidance rules for Canadian banks, but advocates stress that much more should be done to not only increase tax fairness but also ensure government has the revenue to provide much-needed services.
A backgrounder is available here: https://www.fin.gc.ca/n18/docs/18-008_9-eng.pdf
An analysis by Canadians for Tax Fairness, particularly from a gender equity perspective, is here: http://www.taxfairness.ca/en/blog/gender-budgeting-misses-tax-bias-against-women
Another good analysis is in this CUPE roundup: https://cupe.ca/federal-budget-2018-deeper-dive-whats-it-and-whats-missing.
Temporary Foreign Workers
The Budget announced $194 million over five years and additional money ongoing to improve protections for temporary foreign workers, including unannounced inspections under the Temporary Foreign Worker program. It also announced $3.4 million over two years to establish a pilot program to create a network of support organizations for temporary foreign workers dealing with employer abuse.
See page 212 of the Budget for more information.
We have not yet seen an analysis of the impact of these announcements.
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/news-releases/important-steps-taken-budget-2018-keeps-canadians-waiting-big-investments
Canadians for Tax Fairness: http://www.taxfairness.ca/en/blog/gender-budgeting-misses-tax-bias-against-women
Citizens for Public Justice: https://cpj.ca/gender-based-budget-little-ambition
CCPA’s gender analysis: http://behindthenumbers.ca/2018/02/27/baby-steps-dad-big-steps-forward-women/
Canadian Council for Refugees: http://ccrweb.ca/en/media/budget-2018-additional-resources
CCPA Roundup – many analyses are here: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/2018-federal-budget-analysis\
The CCPA’s Alternative Federal Budget 2018 – which provides a costed federal budget based on different policy priorities – is available here: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/afb2018
The Star: Highlights from the 2018 federal budget:
Globe and Mail: Federal budget highlights: 12 things you need to know:
National Post: Highlights from federal budget tabled Tuesday by Finance Minister Bill Morneau:
CBC: “Equality and Growth” budget highlights:
Huffington Post article on parental leave and the Canada Workers Benefit: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/02/27/federal-budget-2018-parental-leave-canada_a_23372610/
Free-spending federal budget contains measures to boost women in the workforce, Indigenous services and science funding:
Federal budget 2018: New measures enhance financial security – for some: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/household-finances/federal-budget-2018-new-measures-enhances-financial-security-for-some/article38137744/