OPINION | There’s room for everyone in a better federal budget

Contributed to the Sixth Estate

Canada draws great strength from its diversity—of peoples, cultures, identities and regions.

But just as our diverse communities make unique contributions to society and the economy, they also face distinct challenges—challenges that deserve meaningful policy solutions backed up by real investment.

Across Canada, farmers struggle with uncertain markets and high debt loads. A better budget would create a guaranteed basic income for new farmers, ensuring sustainable food production for the future and support for rural communities.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities are rebuilding in the wake of colonialism, residential schools and the endemic underfunding of education and social services. But Indigenous peoples continue to face discrimination in pay and employment. A better budget would invest the $9 billion required to make up for the loss in purchasing power created by decades of underfunding.

Women make up 47% of the labour force. In addition to this paid work, women perform an extra 10 hours a week of unpaid care work. A better budget would invest in affordable child care and institute pay equity legislation immediately—so that women’s labour is no longer discounted as a result of discrimination.

Older Canadians face increasing economic insecurity at the end of their working lives. Just one in four private sector workers have a workplace pension plan and the recent bankruptcy of Sears Canada underlined the instability of private sector pensions.

A better budget would raise the Canada Pension Plan replacement rate to 50% and increase the income exemption for the Guaranteed Income Supplement, ensuring greater security for an aging population and reducing senior poverty rates by 30%.

Canada’s immigrant and racialized communities continue to face economic and social discrimination. A better budget would support immigrants with greater access to training and accreditation and ensure a path to citizenship for the most marginalized immigrant workers.

Child poverty rates in Canada remain stubbornly high – 1.2 million children lived in poor families in 2015. A better budget would increase direct transfers to low-income families, including a new GST top-up, reducing child poverty rates by roughly a third and lifting 600,000 children and adults out of poverty.

Our economy deepens inequality by disproportionately benefiting those at the top. A better budget would reform the tax system, so that the wealthy and corporations are no longer able to take advantage of unfair tax loopholes. Tax reform would raise $18 billion in much needed additional revenue while making the tax system simpler and fairer.

Economic growth alone does nothing to prevent the slow unfolding of catastrophic climate change. A better budget would kickstart the transition to a green jobs future by accelerating the national carbon price increase to reach $50 per tonne by 2020, moderating the impact on workers through rebates, while investing in training, apprenticeships and green infrastructure.

A better budget would address the challenges facing all of us. It should build on Canada’s diversity, confront its complicated past and lay the groundwork for a sustainable, more equitable future.

It’s 2018—let’s do better.

Peter Bleyer is the Executive Director with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Sixth Estate.

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