Budget 2018: Equality and growth for a strong middle class, say the Liberals

Bill Morneau
Photo by Chandra Bodalia

FEDERAL Finance Minister Bill Morneau in his budget speech pointed out that over the last 40 years, the rising number of women participating in the workforce has accounted for about a third of Canada’s real GDP per capita growth.

He said: “On average, women earn just 69 cents for every dollar earned by men on an annual basis, even though about three-quarters of young women have a post-secondary certificate or degree. Even women who graduate from high-demand fields like science, technology, engineering and math earn, on average, $9,000 a year less than their male peers.”

Morneau noted: “According to the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a 1 per cent increase in gender diversity means about a 3.5 per cent bump in revenue for those companies that actively seek to hire more women.”

He added: “McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by taking steps to advance equality for women—such as employing more women in technology, and boosting women’s participation in the workforce—Canada could add $150 billion to its economy by 2026.  And, similarly, RBC Economics estimates that if Canada had a completely equal representation of women and men in our workforce, we could have increased the size of the economy by 4 per cent last year.”

Morneau said that in this budget the government was moving forward with proactive pay equity legislation in federally regulated sectors.

He said we needed to recognize that some of this gap is due to the fact that child care—and caregiving duties in general—disproportionately fall to women.

He added: “In this budget, we’re offering a new “use-it-or-lose-it” Employment Insurance (EI) Parental Sharing Benefit to encourage both parents in two-parent families to share equally in the work of raising their children.

“With the EI Parental Sharing Benefit, two-parent families who agree to share parental leave could receive an additional five weeks of leave—making it easier for women to return to work sooner, if they so choose.

“And when that precious time runs out, we know that families need greater access to affordable, quality child care.

“We have already committed to invest more than $7.5 billion in early learning and child care, which could create up to 40,000 new subsidized spaces over the next three years while making existing spaces more affordable.”

Morneau said that we needed to do more to support greater numbers of women in management and leadership positions and added: “And so we are answering the call from members of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, and taking a comprehensive approach to helping women entrepreneurs.”

Noting that “movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp have shed light on disturbing situations and behaviours that too often go unreported,’ he said: “To better support those who have been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, we will boost legal aid funding across the country, so that victims can better understand their rights and get the help they need.”


TALKING about doubling down on the government’s plan to invest in the middle class and in “people working hard to join it,” Morneau said: “The Canada Workers Benefit will allow low-income workers to take home more money while they work—encouraging more people to join and stay in the workforce, and offering real help to more than two million Canadians.

“At the same time, we will also make it easier for people to access the benefit they have earned. By making this benefit more generous, and by automatically giving the benefit to all those who qualify, we will help lift about 70,000 more Canadians out of poverty by 2020.”

He said the government was trying to ensure a fair tax system for all and stressed the need for everyone to pay their fair share.

He added: “That’s why we’ve given the Canada Revenue Agency $1 billion in our first budgets to crack down on tax cheats and offshore tax havens. And with every dollar we invest, we expect $5 in recovered revenue.”

Morneau said: “We are also making sure that the small business tax rate—on track to fall to 9 per cent, the lowest among G7 countries—is available only to small businesses that want to invest, grow and create more jobs.

“We are changing the rules for 3 per cent of private corporations, because the wealthiest Canadians should not be able to use private corporations to pay less tax than ‎the middle class.”

Morneau said that the government is making investments that will help create better opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to find and keep good, well-paying jobs.

He added: “That will build more safe and affordable housing in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities. And that will give better child and family service support, with a special focus on prevention, so that Indigenous children are not taken from their families and their communities.”

The government will increase funding for multiculturalism, provide new funding to ensure the success of Black Canadians, and consult on a new national anti-racism approach to combat discrimination.

Regarding affordable housing, Morneau said the government is working on innovative solutions, like the Rental Construction Financing Initiative that will build 14,000 new rental units across the country.

He said: “This builds on our National Housing Strategy, which will create 100,000 new housing units and repair 300,000 housing units.”

Other steps:

* “To safeguard Canadians’ privacy, and protect both our digital economy and our country, we are making an investment of over $750 million in cybersecurity.”

* “To help families and communities that are being devastated by the opioid crisis, we will invest over $230 million in additional measures to help address the crisis, including additional emergency funding for provinces and territories, so people can access evidence-based treatment services, and get the help they need.”

* “To help workers in seasonal industries like fish processing and tourism, we will work to address the “black hole” in Employment Insurance benefits, helping families make ends meet until the new work season begins.”

Morneau said that there is still room for improvement in our universal medicare system. He pointed out that at least one in 10 Canadians cannot afford the prescription drugs they need.

He said: “Every year, over a million Canadians are forced to give up food and heat in order to afford their medicines, and those who can afford to pay for their medication face some of the highest costs in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”

Morneau added: “To address this, we’ve created an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare—to be headed by Dr. Eric Hoskins—with a mandate to study, evaluate, and ultimately recommend options on a path forward on pharmacare that puts Canadians first.

Regarding protection of the environment, Morneau announced an investment of $1.3 billion to conserve more land and waters, preserve biodiversity, and protect species at risk.


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