Toronto – March 21, 2019 – UFCW Canada expected Federal Budget 2019 to make significant investments in working people. Unfortunately, the budget falls short in addressing the priorities of workers and their families, like pension protections, universal child care and pharmacare, and closing the gender wage gap.
In addition, the budget is a missed opportunity to deal with income inequality in a meaningful way. Many experts have concluded that one of the most important policies that could fight inequality would be the establishment of a national child care program. However, Budget 2019 does not contain a commitment to invest in universal and affordable child care. UFCW Canada is also concerned that the budget makes no mention of pension protections for workers in the event of an employer bankruptcy.
“Overall, Federal Budget 2019 appears to have good intentions,” says UFCW Canada National President Paul Meinema. “But our union was hoping to see a real strategy to protect workers’ pensions when companies restructure or file for bankruptcy, and there is nothing to address that issue here.”
UFCW Canada has long advocated for the introduction of a truly universal, single-payer pharmacare plan that provides vital medicines to all citizens, including the millions of Canadians who cannot afford to fill their prescriptions. However, the budget only takes minor steps toward such a plan, with the announcement of a new federal drug agency and new funding to cover medicines for rare diseases.
Despite these issues, the budget does include several notable investments. For instance, UFCW welcomes the plan to improve the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) by raising the annual earnings exemption for employment income. This measure is desperately needed, as one-third of all seniors in Canada rely on the GIS. Encouragingly, the budget also sets aside money for farmers who will be affected by the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) due to changes to our supply management system. UFCW thinks the government should consider offering support to these workers by providing direct funds to those who are impacted by CUSMA and other trade deals.
Elsewhere, the budget provides a funding commitment to reform the Employment Insurance (EI) appeal process and introduce an immigration pilot program that will allow full-time, non-seasonal workers to access a pathway to permanent residency.
In summary, Federal Budget 2019 makes some progress toward helping those in need. But taken as a whole, the budget is a missed opportunity to make bold investments in working people.
Paul R. Meinema