The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) recently released a response to the Government’s 2016 Budget. They carefully analyzed the Budget to see how the Government’s investments, or lack of, will impact the lives of Canadian women and the issues that both they and The University Women’s Club of Vancouver care about.
The Federal Government is to be congratulated on tabling a budget that builds on the promise of a renewed partnership with the people of Canada, a renewed understanding of the great needs of Indigenous peoples and increased support for working Canadians and students entering the workforce.
CFUW has been calling for a federally-funded, high-quality and accessible child care system for years. An affordable child care system is crucial to attaining equality, including pay equity and access to education for all children.
With this new Federal Budget, the Liberal Government has replaced the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) with the Canada Child Benefit (CCB). The CCB will be tax-free and income-tested. All families with household incomes below $150,000 will receive more under this new program than they would have under the previous program, and will help lift an estimated 300,000 children out of poverty.
While this new benefit is better than the last, it is not the affordable, accessible, child care system with consistent standards that is our ultimate goal. CFUW believes that the only way to achieve true equality, including pay equity, is to provide affordable publicly-funded childcare. We are encouraged that this might be on the horizon. The Budget has allocated $500 million to developing a National Early Learning and Childcare Framework, in partnership with the Provinces, Territories and Indigenous peoples, starting in 2017/2018. CFUW will continue to advocate for a partnership between levels of government to create the child care system Canadians need.
Status of Women Canada has been allocated an additional $23 million over five years ($4.6 million/year) to increase their capacity for supporting local organizations working on women’s issues and gender equality. Our recent experience at the UNCSW indicates that there is a renewed interest in feminist research and, given this government’s interest in gender equity and evidence-based decision-making, this would be an excellent addition to Status of Women funding in the future.
This budget includes significant funding for Indigenous peoples, certainly in comparison to previous budgets. There is $8.4 billion over five years, which includes $2.6 billion to improve primary and secondary education on reserves, fund drinking water and housing, family and child services; $1.1 billion for housing and social infrastructure on reserves; $635 million over five years for First Nations Child Welfare; and $40 million for the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. This is an area that requires serious attention to overcome the years of inadequate funding and certainly is an indication that Indigenous peoples are being included as partners. We will be watching with great interest to see if the Government will follow through on their election promise to lift the 2 per cent funding cap on the Post-Secondary Student Support Program for Indigenous students.
This Budget is the first time ever we have seen such significant investment in combatting climate change and is welcomed. It would appear, however, that it does not meet some commitments in this area.
Over the next two years, the Government is allocating $2 billion for a low-carbon economy fund to support provincial and territorial actions that will materially reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs), $197 million over two years to research methods to reduce air pollution, and an expansion of national parks.
The Liberals had previously committed to putting a price on carbon, but there is no mention of this in the budget. We will need more action than this to meet the Paris agreements, and to limit our Greenhouse Gas emissions in order to stay under the 1.5 degrees Celsius line.
CFUW is pleased to see the allocation of $129.5 million over five years and $40 million over five years to build resilience in Northern and Indigenous communities and integrate climate resilience into building design guides.
STUDENTS AND YOUTH
CFUW was pleased to see the increase in federal student grants by 50% for low-income and middle-income students, raising the possible amount to $3000 and $1200 respectively. We were also pleased to see the investment in the Youth Employment Strategy – $165 million in 2016/2017.
Youth unemployment is a significant problem in Canada, and more needs to be done not only to help students get through school without debt, but to help them find gainful employment after graduating. The 2016 Budget has only allocated $73 million over four years, somewhat less than original commitments.
CFUW calls for continued investment in jobs for youth, including federal programs and strategies to train young people for in-demand jobs.
SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING
CFUW was happy to see the significant investments this Budget makes in public infrastructure, particularly on affordable housing and support for shelters. The investment is divided into two phases. Phase 1 starts immediately, focusing on repairs to existing infrastructure with an investment of $11.9 billion, and Phase 2 starts in two years, focused on new construction.
$2.3 billion of this funding is for affordable housing, including doubling federal spending on the affordable housing program and adding $111.8 million to help 61 cities tackle homelessness. This includes $200 million over two years to repair and build affordable housing units for more than 5,000 low-income seniors, and $739 million over the same period for First Nations, Inuit and northern community housing. $3.2 billion will be spent on renovating old units, which are neither energy nor water efficient, and otherwise in desperate need of repair.
This part of the budget also includes $89.9 million over two years to construct and renovate more than 3,000 shelter spaces for women escaping domestic violence. CFUW is pleased with this investment, as women’s shelters and transition houses are desperately in need of funding and play a crucial role in protecting the lives of women.