The federal budget promises $30 billion over five years and $8.3 billion annually afterwards for a national child-care policy. Register file photo

Budget 2021: Good or bad? Time will tell

By 
  • April 21, 2021

OTTAWA -- Billions of dollars will be poured into some of the key priorities of faith and social justice groups as the federal government has opened the spending taps in its budget unveiled April 19.

But exactly how that money will be spent and its impact  on Indigenous reconciliation, transitioning to a greener economy, providing child care and helping charities survive the economic devastation of the pandemic is open to debate.

Along with forecasting a deficit of $354 billion for the 2020-21 fiscal year and $154.7 billion for 2021-22, the minority Liberal government is promising to continue to support Canadians and businesses financially with ongoing pandemic financial supports.

“This budget is about finishing the fight against COVID-19. It’s about healing the wounds left by the COVID-19 recession. And it’s about creating more jobs and prosperity for Canadians in the days — and decades — to come,” said Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland.

Freeland unveiled in her first budget as finance minister a plethora of spending initiatives, many focused on environmental concerns that have been at the forefront of demands by environmental and religious organizations to address climate change. In the budget, $101 billion in new spending was earmarked over three years to help transition to a green economy, the “just transition” some organizations have been calling for.

While the many “green” aspects of the budget are being applauded by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), the government could and should have gone further down that road, said Karri Munn-Venn.

“Investments in clean transportation, energy efficiency, adaptation and mitigation and resilient agriculture are all key,” said CPJ senior policy analyst Munn-Venn.

“Unfortunately, by coupling these measures with extensive supports to the oil and gas sector it becomes clear that the federal government has yet to grasp the severity and urgency of the global climate crisis or the devastating ramifications of inadequate action.”

Also promised in the budget was $30 billion over five years and $8.3 billion per year after that for a national child care program, $18 billion towards “safer” and “healthier” Indigenous communities, $17.6 billion towards other “green recovery” efforts, $3 billion over five years to help improve long-term care and $2.5 billion for housing units for vulnerable Canadians.

The Liberals have been promising to bring in a national day care system for decades, but what they propose is disappointing to religious think tank Cardus, which has been advocating for a flexible system for parents and not a one-size fits all government system as is currently in place in Quebec. The proposed system “is structurally opposed to equity for all families. All families will pay for the plan, but only families who choose or can access the type of care the federal government favours receive the subsidized benefit,” Cardus said in a statement after the budget was released.

“Families know how to make the choices that work best for them. Federal policy should maximize the flexibility of families to make varied choices across the country.”

However, the CPJ’s socio-economic policy analyst Natalie Appleyard praised the child-care program, to be created with the help of the provinces, saying, “Long-awaited and critical investments towards the goal of $10-a-day child-care fees are to be celebrated.” 

Also included in the budget is a temporary Community Services Recovery Fund of $400 million for Canada’s charitable sector, which has been hard hit financially by the pandemic. However, that support falls short of what many in the charitable sector have been asking for.

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