Budget lacks vision for helping the poor or young families

  • March 23, 2011
Prime Minister Stephen HarperOTTAWA - The reaction to the March 22 federal budget was muted among groups concerned about the family and the poor, with one group describing it as “ho hum."

But the reaction may be moot, as all three Opposition parties have signaled they will not support it, which would trigger a spring election, likely in May.

“It was a pretty quick read,” said Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) executive director Joe Gunn, who also chairs the Dignity for All Campaign for a Poverty-free Canada. “It looks like pretty thin gruel.”

Gunn was disappointed that concerns raised in a recent interfaith declaration by church leaders on making poverty reduction and social housing a priority were not tackled in the budget.

“We were looking for, on the social policy side, some indication there was some vision and commitment to the social deficit that the recession left us with,” he said. “It takes a long time for people to recover from recessions.”

The CPJ’s other big issue is the environment, Gunn said. Though the budget continued some environmental programs, it did not include any new initiatives on greenhouse gas reductions.

The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) gave the budget mixed reviews.

“I see great support for families that have aging parents,” said IMFC executive director Dave Quist, who noted the Family Care Tax Credit and Medical Expense Tax credit addressed some of the demographic changes stressing families as baby-boomers retire and need more health care and the so-called “sandwich generation” in their 40s and 50s must look after both young children and aging parents.

But aside from the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit, Quist saw little support for families with young children.

“(The budget) is not bad, but kind of neutral for young families at this time,” he said.

“I think it is a stay-the-course budget. It addressees the issues of debt and deficit we’ve been carrying especially the last couple of years. It is good that we’re trying to address that debt so that our children and grandchildren won’t have to carry it as well.”

Cardus, a social policy think tank that focuses on strengthening civil society, was not overly impressed with the budget.

“The progress made in reducing spending and restoring financial stability needs to be accompanied by the recognition that social enterprise, charities and natural communities including families also must flourish if Canadians will enjoy prosperity,” said Cardus Research Director Ray Pennings in a news release.

“In sum, this budget is good news for a deficit-economy, but ho-hum for Canadian society.”

Gunn said he hopes people of faith will let their candidates know that poverty reduction is a concern so that it becomes an election issue.

Both Gunn and Quist expressed concerns that an election would not produce a different result than the minority Conservative-led Parliament Canadians have now, if the present polls are any indication. The Conservatives lead in the polls, but may not have enough support for a majority government.

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