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Gender Equality: A review of the Budget delivered by Canada's first Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland

Published on April 23, 2021

On April 19, 2021, we were given, by the first woman Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, an historic Feminist Federal Budget. The budget comes at a critical time during a pandemic that has threatened Canada’s gender equality gains over the past 30 years. The investments will make a difference for women and for communities hit hardest due to long standing disparities and discrimination. When gender equity is a national strategy and we put those at the highest risk at the centre, everybody benefits. It’s a strategic investment in Canada’s future.

Here are only some of the significant investments from this historic Federal Budget related to gender equity:

  • $30 billion over 5 years and $8.3 billion ongoing with a goal of $10-dollars-a-day child care by 2026
  • $2.2 billion over 5 years and $160.9 million ongoing for a National Action Plan in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls to Justice and implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action
  • $600 million for a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence
  • $400 million for a Community Services Recovery Fund
  • $146.9 million over 4 years for the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy
  • $109.3 million for the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy
  • $15 million over two years to extend the Racialized Newcomer Women Pilot initiative
  • Establishing a National Institute for Women’s Health Research

Budget Success for Canadian Seniors

Minister Freeland also provided more than $4 billion to help seniors. After tabling her first budget as Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland apologized in the House of Commons for failing the residents of Canada’s long-term-care facilities. “To them, and to their families, let me say this: I am so sorry,” Freeland said. “We owe you so much better than this.”

Seniors were the hardest hit in the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic with 80 per cent of pandemic deaths tied to LTC facilities. Even before the April 19 budget, commitments were also gained in November, 2020. The highlights gained for seniors are as follows:

  • Funding for new national standards for long-term care. The Health Standards Organization, a non-profit based in Ottawa, is currently developing those standards with Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health and University Health Network of Toronto, as its chair.
  • $3 billion over five years to help ensure provinces and territories provide a high standard of care in their long-term-care (LTC) homes. Cash is planned to start being delivered in the next fiscal year, 2022-23.
  • $90 million funding for seniors who don’t live in LTC, over three years of funding starting in 2021-22 to Employment and Social Development Canada to launch the “Age Well at Home Initiative.” This program is designed to help community organizations provide support to seniors so they can live at home longer by receiving help in areas like meal preparations, home maintenance, yard work and transportation.
  • $29.8 million to Health Canada to develop a better palliative care strategy
  • Increases to the old age security (OAS) next year for those who are 75 or older. The proposed 10 per cent increase to OAS will benefit 3.3 million seniors. OAS recipients will also receive a one-time payment of $500 in August as long as they are at least 75 years of age by June 2022.

Towards an Inclusive Canada – An Economic Recovery that Includes Everyone

Freeland’s budget for Canadians is inclusive of the needs exposed by many. A few more significant highlights worth mentioning gleaned from some 800 pages of the new federal budget:

  • $11 million this in addition to the creation of the new Canadian Race Relations Foundation
  • $300 million to establish an Endowment Fund for Black organizations to eliminate barriers of economic systemic discrimination, and programs for Black youth
  • $2 million to Public Safety Canada to enhance its commitments to protect communities at risk of hate crimes by funding the security infrastructures of places of worship, schools, and cultural community organizations
  • $1 billion with ongoing funding for the First Nations Child and Family Services Program
  • $597 million for mental health and wellness strategies with First Nations, Inuit and Metis
  • $376 million in additional support for the Disability Tax Credit
  • $11.9 million over three years with revamped assessment of disability, mental and other therapy needs
  • $15 million for a new LGBTQ2 Projects Fund
  • $7.1 million to support the work of the LGBTQ2 Secretariat
  • $140 million to assist veterans with mental health care costs and their disability benefit applications
  • $15 million to expand and enhance the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund
  • $116 million to address the Substance Use and Addictions Program and additional funding to the provinces in battling the Opioid Crisis
  • $15 minimum wage for non-unionized Federal and Crown Corporation employees
  • $ 1 Billion to revamp, modernize, and update all data systems of Statistics Canada, Justice Canada, etc. to have the data to make evidence-based decisions across priorities including disaggregated data, health, quality of life, the environment, justice, and business and the economy
  • Establishing support. strategies, and research with: Research Pediatric Cancer; National Framework for Diabetes, a National Autism Strategy, support for Canadian Blood Services

The highlights provided are summarized, but many more initiatives exist (i.e. the green economy, infrastructure programs etc.) than those listed. Canada is pointed in the right direction to become inclusive of its citizens and their needs. The massive task for the implementation of gains made will however, rest with the willingness of provincial premiers to ensuring that the values expressed in Freeland’s budget are implemented (e.g. national daycare programs, confronting racism, the opioid crisis, standards of LTC, comprehensive data collection etc.). Perhaps provinces will give meaning to the idea that “we are all in this together.”

We will continue to monitor progress made and continue to advocate for a resilient and an inclusive recovery for women and their families.

Maria Peluso, VP Government Affairs

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