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5 suggestions for Canada’s federal budget

Finance Minister Joe Oliver, middle, makes his way to the podium with Minister of State (Finance) Kevin Sorenson, right, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Finance Minister, Andrew Saxton prior to the finance ministers meeting in Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver, middle, makes his way to the podium with Minister of State (Finance) Kevin Sorenson, right, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Finance Minister, Andrew Saxton prior to the finance ministers meeting in Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

It’s common knowledge Canada’s federal budget, due April 21 after being pushed back several months thanks to tanking oil prices, tends to be less detailed financial blueprint than political document.

Based on reporting we’ve done into the everyday financial anxieties plaguing Canadian families, here are some modest recommendations from experts and families we spoke with for Finance Minister Joe Oliver:

  1. Day care: Affordable, accessible child care would get more people into the workforce, raising tax revenues and lowering the amount spent on social services, studies by the OECD, multiple child services agencies, academics from the University of Toronto and elsewhere have shown. Right now, a multitude of parents told us, there simply aren’t enough spaces, there’s a huge cost barrier and many unregulated early childhood educators are underpaid. A Parliamentary Budget Officer report found proposed changes to federal childcare funding this year would mean most of that cash would benefit families who don’t need it because their childcare expenditures are close to $0.
  2. Better skills training. The federal apprenticeship program’s a start, but labour economists argue it isn’t enough: Instead of secretive deals with companies that are supposed to “create” jobs, we’d be better off working with the provinces to train Canadians so they have the skills they need to work in a shifting market, they say.
  3. Universal Pharmacare: If done right, this would save money, studies from UBC, Carleton University and elsewhere have found,. They say this would ensure Canadians don’t need to choose between paying the rent and staying healthy, or between staying on welfare and retaining benefits or getting a job and losing access to the meds they need.
  4. An end to income-splitting. As the PBO has pointed out multiple times, this would benefit a wealthy minority of Canadians and cost Ottawa $2.2-billion. He has also found it would keep more people out of the workforce even as the percentage of Canadians in their working prime is at its lowest since 2002 and the percentage of men 25-54 is at its lowest since the 1970s, according to Statistics Canada. (Japan is considering ending its income-splitting plan for that same reason.)
  5. Reforms to EI. Access to employment insurance across Canada is hugely unequal, as the chart below demonstrates. That means many Canadian workers pay into a program from which they never benefit. Labour economists argue the program could be changed to benefits Canadians in precarious work who may be unemployed multiple times or for extended periods.
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Tell us (and the Finance Minister): What do you want to see in Canada’s federal budget? Why?

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