What works in Canada’s 2021-22 budget?

A week ago, on Monday April 19, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland presented Canada’s budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 to the House of Commons. Since the Finance Minister delivered that speech, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s minority Liberal Government has survived two non-confidence motions. They pertained to amendments. This morning, Monday April 26, the House will be asked to approve the Budget as a whole. This is expected to prompt yet another non-confidence motion. The NDP party has promised to support the government and in this morning’s interview Rachel Blaney, the MP for North Island – Powell River talks about the aspects of Canada’s 2021-22 budget that she thinks work for her constituents, and those that do not.

Photo credit: Canadian money by Rick via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

What Canada’s Budget is meant to do

First, this is what Ms Freeland said the budget is meant to do:

This budget addresses three fundamental challenges.”

“First, we need to conquer COVID. That means buying vaccines and supporting provincial and territorial healthcare systems. It means enforcing our quarantine rules at the border and within the country. It means providing Canadians and Canadian businesses with the support they need to get through these tough, third-wave lockdowns, and to come roaring back when the economy fully reopens.”

“Second, we must punch our way out of the COVID recession. That means ensuring lost jobs are recovered as swiftly as possible, and hard-hit businesses rebound quickly.”

“It means providing support where COVID has struck hardest – to women, to young people, to low-wage workers, and to small and medium-sized businesses, especially in tourism and hospitality.”

“The final challenge is to build a more resilient Canada; better, more fair, more prosperous, and more innovative.”

“That means investing in Canada’s green transition and the green jobs that go with it; in Canada’s digital transformation and Canadian innovation; and in building infrastructure for a dynamic, growing country.”

“And it means providing Canadians with social infrastructure – from early learning and child care, to student grants to income top-ups – so the middle class can flourish and more Canadians can join it.”

Rachel Blaney during Question Period Credit: Bernard Thibodeau, House of Commons

What works in the Budget

“I think there are a few things that are working in the Budget,” says MP Rachel Blaney.

She likes the promise to improve child care. 

“This is something I have talked about with a lot of constituents. Many people are paying as much for childcare as they are for their rent or mortgage, and I think that should give us all pause. And of course, what we’ve seen, especially in the Quebec model, is that when they had affordable child care women went back to work. There were a lot of good things that happened to the economy. I think that is a good step forward, but what I am going to be looking for is the actual action.” 

Blaney as also pleased to see more money put forward for the missing and murdered Indigenous women

“I’m hesitantly hopeful about that. I really want to see a date for that action plan and steps moving forward. Hopefully this will actually help to address that fundamental issue,” she said. 

“There were some good things there for wild salmon. They announced over $647 million. I guess what I’m looking for, and this is what you will hear from me again and again, is ‘I like your promise, where is the actual action?’ This is something that I feel has been left out.”  

She wants to see the Liberals front end their promises. Too often, 90% of the funding is left until year five of programs. 

“With what is happening to wild salmon on our coast, we need the money to come in as quickly as possible,” said Blaney. “And I think when we look at how to respond to what has happened with COVID, this is a good way to support the jobs plan moving forward – investing in wild salmon.” 

What doesn’t work in the Budget

“I was very disappointed to not see anything substantive on Pharmacare. They continue to do this work that is about ‘talking’ and we just need to have affordable Pharmacare. The Liberals paid for a report and that report was very clear … We need to have a universal single payer system in our country that will make it more affordable. I hope Canadians understand that right now every province and territory is purchasing medications individually, instead of collectively. Even that would make a huge difference because it is collective buying, like bulk buying,” said Blaney.  

There was not enough focus on affordable housing.

“We need a really concrete strategy for rural remote communities, for Indigenous communities. This is still not in the budget.”   

As for addressing climate change, Blaney said, “Quite frankly what I saw in the Budget was not enough. It is not focused enough and that concerns me. We might not get to the other side of the crisis, the emergency we are in.”   

What can she do?

At the time of our interview, Parliament was still debating the budget. 

Blaney said that once that is over, hopefully they can get the government to move on some things.

“We’ll keep pushing them on these realities. There are a lot of different tools that I use to do that. Constituents can always contact me about things they are passionate about and I will find ways for you to support the advocacy of those issues”

To be continued

This is part of a five part series, in upcoming articles Ms Blaney will talk about:

  • The forgotten seniors (aged 65-74)
  • The housing crisis
  • COVID crisis subsidies
  • Salmon

Top photo credit: Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland during the 2013 byelection by Joseph Morris via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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