The federal budget is out. How does it measure up?

Posted on March 3, 2018 in Governance Policy Context – News
March 2, 2018.

Dear Friend,

Earlier this week, the federal government released its 2018 budget. This year’s budget takes some positive steps forward on gender equality and science funding, but comes up short on the bold policy moves that will make a real difference for Canadians—universal child care, pharmacare, health care, and tax fairness.

The government promised us a budget guided by gender analysis this year, and in many ways it delivered: pay equity legislation for the public sector, ‘use it or lose it’ second parent leave, a long-awaited increase in funding to women’s organizations, and additional investments for addressing workplace harassment and funding to rape crisis centres.

While Budget 2018 lays some long-awaited foundations for the real change promised in the 2015 election, when it comes to substantive action to advance a truly feminist agenda, we’re still waiting for the big investments required to build a more equitable and inclusive economy. Here’s some of what was missing from Budget 2018:

An end to the long waiting lists for child care and the incredibly high fees.
This budget’s gender analysis can be commended for covering many bases and closing gaps in pay and employment in the future. But its biggest miss is national, affordable child care. The additional five weeks leave for a second parent is a welcome development, but it is not a replacement for affordable universal childcare.

Significant poverty reduction. The sole measure that will have a direct impact on poverty rates is the change in the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB). Increasing the WITB was conceived as a way to offset Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions and then some. But at its maximum, the increase is worth about $200 a person. The budget estimates that 70,000 people will be lifted out of poverty: an insufficient 0.2% decrease in the poverty rate. That’s a pretty small change, even if it’s in the right direction.

An end to tax loopholes and an unfair tax system. While there are some technical additions on the taxation of private corporations, missing from this budget are significant measures to reform Canada’s tax system, which is currently riddled with loopholes that largely benefit Canada’s most wealthy and corporations. This was a key platform promise from the Liberals, and one on which they have so far failed to deliver—a real missed an opportunity to gain an important source of revenue that could have funded inequality-fighting and job-creating measures.

I hope you will agree that, if nothing else, Budget 2018 underlines the importance of our work. We have been applying a gender-based analysis to social and economic policy for over a decade, and now the federal government is catching up. More generally, this budget reminds us that progress in the form of challenging inequality, creating inclusive growth, and investing in a strong social safety net does not come easily—and there is much hard work ahead for all of us.

Thank you for making our work possible!

Peter Bleyer
Executive Director
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

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