Budget 2019 presents important aspirations but lacks prompt implementation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ottawa, ON: March 19, 2019 — While Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) notes that Budget 2019 contains many important policy pitches, delayed spending timelines mean that many pressing issues will not receive needed action.
With its emphasis on gender equality, deepening efforts towards reconciliation, and notable shifts towards a cleaner economy, the budget sends positive signals about the priorities the Government of Canada wants to emphasize. But with little more than half a year left in the current mandate, this pre-election document reads as mostly a series of hopeful platitudes towards a future that may never come.
It is disappointing, that the National Poverty Reduction Strategy does not have a more central place in the budget. CPJ would have liked to have seen more investment directly to programs that would strengthen the strategy, rather than a continued piecemeal approach to addressing poverty in Canada.
The budget does include important first steps to develop a national pharmacare program. However, the creation of a Canadian Drug Agency must reflect a level of urgency to meaningfully address the needs of people in Canada struggling under crippling costs.
CPJ is pleased to see a recognition that housing affordability needs to be addressed, with further programs directed to first-time homeowners and new rental construction funding (additional $10 billion over nine years). However, the rollout of the spending for the National Housing Strategy has been too slow to address the current housing crisis.
And while the federal government has acknowledged climate change as a global crisis that requires immediate, far-reaching action, under the exhilarating heading of “fulfilling Canada’s G20 commitment [to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies],” there is no fulfilment to be found.
Climate change requires a move away from coal-fired electricity generation, but Budget 2019 only allocated $35 million over five years for worker transition centres. Hopefully, some of the Canada Training Benefit’s $1.7 billion over five years will further assist workers as they transition to new jobs, and preliminary efforts towards a just transition will be expanded to include the oil and gas industry.
The big win on action to address climate change is clearly the new Canadian “target to sell 100 per cent zero-emission vehicles by 2040, with sales goals of 10 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030 along the way.”
On refugee rights, the 2019 budget offers little for refugees in Canada and instead highlights that the Government wishes to increase their border control by increasing interception and deportation of irregular border crossers, with the decision to implement a Border Enforcement Strategy to the tune of $1.18 billion over five years in 2019-20 followed by $55 million per year thereafter. This new strategy contradicts CPJ’s call for the federal government to rescind the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement.
Ahead of the fall federal election, and in light of increased concern over foreign election tampering, it is worth noting the considerable commitment by the federal government to invest $30.2 million over five years towards the safeguarding of democratic institutions.
“I think we must applaud any government action that presents progress on issues of the environment, poverty and refugee rights. However, it would be irresponsible not to advocate that same government for further positive and substantive progress,” said CPJ’s executive director Willard Metzger.
“With Budget 2019, the federal government has indicated only tentative financial commitments that fail to match the urgency of many key priorities.”
Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget speech clearly emphasized a continued focus on the middle class and the intention to reach millennials, who are now poised to surpass baby boomers as the largest, most powerful voting block in this fall’s federal election.
With Investing in the Middle Class, the government has continued to lag on decisive action to implement important policy changes that will care for vulnerable members of our society. In the place of accelerated change, Budget 2019 invokes mostly proposals for future aspirations.
Read CPJ’s full budget response here.
For more information, contact Deb Mebude at email@example.com or 613-232-0275 x. 225.