Photo by Jamie In Bytown via Flickr

Trudeau Government Unveils 2018 Budget

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has tabled this year’s federal budget, which has a significant focus on gender equity, funding for First Nations and health care.

The budget was revealed Tuesday afternoon and includes $21.5-billion in new spending over a six-year period.  The spending is projected to grow the deficit to $18.1-billion, which includes a $3-billion adjustment for risk.

A number of highlights in the budget are aimed at closing the gaps for women in the workplace, including the promise of introducing legislation this year on federal pay equity.

London Abused Women’s Centre Executive Director Megan Walker said it was overwhelmingly positive to see women’s issues take priority in a federal budget. She added that it’s the first time in her career she’s seen the budget used to make a “political statement, which is that the lives of women matter.”

“They’ve recognized that at this point, women are making around $0.87 per every dollar a man earns, and they’re trying to address that,” said Walker. “They’re [also] addressing the difficulty women have in returning to work and taking on both rolls as an employee in the workplace, and also at home to their children.”

The Trudeau government outlined a plan in the budget to ensure five extra weeks leave for two-parent families under the EI Parental Sharing Benefit.

The government has also committed $10-million over five years for an RCMP unit to review 25,000 cases of sexual assault that were deemed “unfounded.”  An additional $30-million over three years will go towards promoting the participation women and girls in sports.

However, Walker said she would have liked to have seen the budget address poverty in Canada, which disproportionately impacts women and girls.

“What has been forgotten are those women who are working poor, or are living in poverty, and experiencing homelessness,” she said

Beth Cook, a grassroots First Nations woman living in Windsor-Essex, said the government is taking the right steps in areas of need for Indigenous peoples, such as investing $1.3-billion in new funding over six years for First Nations Child and Family Services.

“I really hope they focus on correcting why this happens and providing the support to the families,” said Cook.

However, Cook said the government still needs to listen to the needs of First Nations, and “acknowledge the treaties and nation to nation relationship.”

“There’s a lot of need for housing, which may be met, and other areas, to help the people address the systemic barriers that are in place that don’t help them live successful lives,” she said.

Another $172.6-million is being invested over three years for clean drinking water on First Nations reserves.

Windsor Regional Hospital Chief of Staff Gary Ing said he was pleased with the government’s plan to create an advisory council for implementing national pharmacare, as well as the investment of $231-million over five years to address the opioid crisis.

“I think the addition of a national pharmacare plan will really make our universal care a much better benefit for everybody across Canada,” he said. “It covers a significant amount of pharmaceutical products across the board.”

Ing said there are roughly 3.5-million Canadians without a substantial drug plan who are at risk.

“For those patients who need medications after the diagnosis is made, without a strong pharmacare plan, some of these patients will be going without treatment,” he said.

The 2018 federal budget also includes $750-million in spending over five years to improve cyber security, and $1.3-billion over five years to conserve land, waterways and wildlife and protect species at risk. Another $50-million over five years will go to one or more independent organizations to support journalism.

The national deficit is projected to fall to $12.3-billion by 2022-2023.