The Budget – Equality and Growth: Strong Middle Class – includes several provisions designed to expand opportunities for low income Canadians.
Expanded benefits for Canadians:
The Working Income Tax Benefit is being renamed the Canada Worker Benefit, and strengthened. Building on the previously announced $250 million enhancement (Budget 2016), and $500 million (2017 Fall Economic Statement), Budget 2018 proposes to increase earning supplements and expand access. These changes will make 300,000 more low income workers eligible for the CWB in 2019. (Page 32).
As first announced in the 2017 Fall Economic Statement, the Canada Child Benefit receives a boost, with indexing starting in July 2018. This will result in $5.6 billion of additional support between 2018-19 and 2022-23. (Page 35)
There is an expansion of the funding available under the Rental Construction Financing Initiative, from $2.5 billion to $3.75 billion over the next three years. (Page 40)
Budgeting through a gender lens:
A significant change introduced in this Budget is an attempt to examine investments and initiatives through a gender lens, including the following.
· A commitment to introduce new pay equity legislation designed “to reduce the wage gap and ensure that women working in federally regulated industries receive equal pay for work of equal value.” (Page 43)
· $1.2 billion over five years, and $344.7 million annually thereafter, for a new Employment Insurance (EI) Parental Sharing Benefit to encourage more men to take maternity leave. Starting in June 2019 addition weeks of parental benefits will be available on a “use it or loose it’ basis when both parents share parental leave. (Page 45)
Building on investments in previous budgets, Budget 2018 delivers an additional $5 billion over five years to ensure that Indigenous children and families have an equal chance to succeed in life, build the capacity of Indigenous governments, and accelerate self-determination and self-government agreements with Indigenous Peoples based on the recognition and implementation of rights. (Page 126)
These new dollars break down in the following manner.
Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program (Page 132)
- To help close the employment and earning gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, Budget 2018 proposes to invest $2 billion over five years, and $408.2 million per year going forward, to support the creation of a new Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program, which will replace the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy. This includes incremental investments of $447 million over five years, $99.4 million per year ongoing, and a stronger focus on training for higher quality, better paying jobs rather than rapid re-employment. This additional funding will assist approximately 15,000 more clients gain greater skills and find jobs that will support their long-term career success.
Support for distinctions based housing strategies (Page 133)
- As announced in November 2017 in Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy, the Federal Government and Indigenous partners are working together to improve housing conditions over the long term and to ensure that Indigenous Peoples have greater control over housing in their communities.
- Through investments made in Budget 2017 and Budget 2018, the Federal Government proposes dedicated funding to support the successful implementation of each of the distinctions based housing strategies, including:
o an additional $600 million over three years to support housing on reserve as part of a 10-year First Nations Housing Strategy that is being developed with First Nations;
o $400 million over 10 years to support an Inuit-led housing plan in the Inuit regions of Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and Inuvialuit (this is in addition to the $240 million over 10 years announced in Budget 2017 to support housing in Nunavut, where additional funding was provided for Inuit housing);
o $500 million over 10 years to support the Métis Nation’s housing strategy;
o $200 million, with $40 million per year ongoing, to enhance the delivery of culturally appropriate addictions treatment and prevention services in First Nations communities with high needs (Page 134); and
o $400 million over 10 years for housing in the Inuit regions of Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and Inuvialuit to help address significant overcrowding and repair needs in Inuit communities. (Page 134)
Employment and Skills Development:
The Canada Summer Jobs program will be expanded to support the Youth Employment Strategy with an additional investment of $448.5 million in 2018-19. (Page 56)
The EI Working While on Claim pilot will be made permanent starting in 2018-19 with an investment of $351.9 million over five years and $80.1 annually thereafter. (Page 57)
Other budget items of interest:
A cluster of initiatives are positioned in Budget 2018 as helping Canada reach the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Addressing the opioid crisis (Page 170)
· $100 million over five years will be invested to support the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy for national measures and actions to respond to the opioid crisis.
· More than $20 million in emergency financial assistance for British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba will help these provinces respond to the overwhelming effects of the opioid crisis and address the critical needs of their citizens.
· An Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare will be created. At least one in 10 Canadians cannot afford the prescription drugs they need and, every year, almost one million Canadians give up food and heat to afford medicines. (Page 172)
Strengthening multiculturalism and addressing the challenges faced by Black Canadians (Page 182)
· $23 million over two years, starting in 2018–19, will be invested to increase funding for the Multiculturalism Program administered by Canadian Heritage. This funding would support cross-country consultations on a new national anti-racism approach, would bring together experts, community organizations, citizens and interfaith leaders to find new ways to collaborate and combat discrimination, and would dedicate increased funds to address racism and discrimination targeted against Indigenous Peoples and women and girls.
· As a first step in recognizing the significant and unique challenges faced by Black Canadians, the Federal Government also proposes to provide $19 million over five years targeted at enhancing local community supports for youth at risk and to develop research in support of more culturally focused mental health programs in the Black Canadian community. (Page 183)
Combatting gender based violence and harassment (Page 196)
· The Federal Government recognizes that prevention is critical to ending gender based violence, that survivors and their families need support, and that the legal and justice systems must be improved to respond to gender based violence. Through Budget 2018, the Federal Government proposes new funding to address these areas.
· The Federal Government proposes to provide an additional $86 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, and $20.0 million per year ongoing, to expand Canada’s Strategy to Address Gender-Based Violence. New investments will focus, in part, on: (Page 199)
o preventing teen dating violence;
o enhancing and developing preventative bullying and cyber bullying initiatives;
o expanding the High Needs Victims Fund so that more organizations, such as rape crisis centres, are better able to help population groups that are at the highest risk of experiencing violence. This investment will double the support provided to this initiative in Budget 2017.