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Wanted: more walk, less talk in today’s federal budget

Missed opportunity says Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The federal government missed a key opportunity to walk the walk and tackle income inequality in today’s federal budget, says Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Senior Economist David Macdonald.

“While there are some positive aspects to Budget 2017,” Macdonald says, “let’s not mistake this for the bold, visionary inequality reduction budget that Canadians were promised by this government.”

There were some welcome developments on the spending side — including an expansion in homelessness spending, continued investments in child care, and Canada’s first official gender analysis of the budget. But when it comes to reducing inequality, Canadians expect more. 

“Despite working harder, too many Canadians have been excluded from the economic growth that has gone to CEO and corporate profits instead of workers’ wages. Economic growth is meaningless if it’s enjoyed only by a lucky few. The measures in today’s budget will do little to address the big issues facing Canadians,” says Macdonald.

On gender budgeting:

Senior Researcher Kate McInturff has long been incorporating a gender budget analysis for the CCPA’s flagship Alternative Federal Budget, and she welcomes this new aspect to federal budgeting.

“This budget recognizes that economic policy has a role to play in closing the gender gap,” McInturff says. “While the 2017 budget includes some individual programs that will make a difference in women’s lives, women are still missing from the big picture.”

Delivering benefits to caregivers through the Employment Insurance (EI) program won’t benefit all the women who don’t qualify for EI in the first place, not least because they are too busy providing unpaid care. Investing in science and technology will not do anything to address the under-representation of women in those sectors.

“I’m glad the government is investing in the jobs of tomorrow,” says McInturff, “but we also need to invest in the sectors where women work today.”

On child care:

“Parents have been waiting a long time for a national affordable child care plan—and they’re going to have to keep waiting. There are 275,000 Canadian women working part-time because they can’t afford child care,” says McInturff. “The government is continuing its half billion spending level from last year. That’s just roughly a third of Paul Martin’s 2005 scuttled child care plan of $1.6 billion a year once fully rolled out.”

On taxes:

The Liberal election platform promised to raise $2 billion a year by 2018 by “ending unfair tax breaks.” That didn’t happen in today’s federal budget. The public transit tax credit, the last of the boutique tax credits, was closed but the government took a pause on tackling bigger tax loopholes.

“This budget goes after the small fish of tax breaks, but it does nothing to catch the big ones like stock options and capital gains. It’s time to address the fact that stock traders and CEOs pay half the tax rate on stock options than janitors who sweep their floors pay on income tax,” says Macdonald. “Canada’s income tax system remains tilted in favour of high-paid CEOs and that’s got to change.”