Politics Blog: Federal Budget 2021 is a missed opportunity

Ottawa – April 27, 2021 – After two years without a budget, and with COVID-19 wreaking havoc in many parts of the country, one could have expected a budget that was transformational in addressing the issues laid bare by the pandemic. An opportunity to address the many problems facing Canadians, instead we were presented with half measures, and in some ways, nothing at all.

The inclusion of a national $10 dollar a day childcare program with money attached was welcome but the Liberals have been promising a national childcare plan since 1993.

Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour was also good and a change of heart for the prime minister who was critical of a similar NDP proposal in the 2015 federal election. Trudeau even told a business crowd in 2016 that his government did not see raising the federal minimum wage as a solution to helping those facing economic barriers.

Extending EI emergency benefits to September was also welcomed news as was the reduction to the new universal eligibility to 420 hours for the next year to support workers who have precarious employment. And hopefully, the announced review of Canada’s EI system will help address its many limitations.

While these budget items are appreciated there is much more to be done with no mention of a universal pharmacare plan – something that could save Canadians over $5 billion a year.

In the fall 2020 throne speech the PM promised to work with provinces and territories to set new national standards for long-term care (LTC) but only a small increase in federal support for eldercare was promised in this budget despite the appalling conditions revealed by the pandemic.

The work to establish national standards has been given to private bodies who sell a host of products and services to LTC operators seeking accreditation. Over the years those granted accreditation are the same for-profit LTC providers who have failed the elderly in the pandemic.

The flaws in the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit which has a significant lag in payment time in addition to only paying long-term workers are yet to be addressed. There is also no added incentive for the provinces to provide urgently needed paid sick days.

The budget also fails to address much needed tax reform. A luxury tax on high end cars and boats is good but is far from the type of reform needed to reduce growing inequality. There is no wealth tax or pandemic tax on those who have seen major increases in their personal wealth and corporations who have unfairly profited from the pandemic while other businesses faced crippling restrictions. These types of measurers would raise billions in revenue that can go towards reducing the growing economic divide.

In the end, this Liberal budget really looks like a missed opportunity to truly deal with all the problems that have been laid bare by the pandemic.