OTTAWA – Women, science and conservation are among the dominant themes of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s latest federal budget, which charts a clear course for the Liberals to the next election in 2019.
Morneau’s budget includes a $18.1-billion deficit for 2018-19, including a $3-billion adjustment for risk, down slightly from the previous year but without any plan for a return to balanced books.
Instead, the Liberal government is doubling down on the idea that spending money _ even borrowed money _ is good for the long-term future of Canadians.
The budget aims to increase the participation of women in the workforce, part of a longer-term plan to grow the economy and brace for the consequences of an aging population.
It provides up to five weeks of leave for new fathers, worth $1.2 billion over five years, to help break the pattern of mothers automatically taking on the greater share of child-rearing responsibilities.
It also includes major investments in science, the environment and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, all areas Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government sees as part of its progressive vision for the country and the world.
Highlights from the federal Liberal budget tabled Tuesday by Finance Minister Bill Morneau:
_ “Proactive” pay equity legislation, as well as $3 million over five years for a “pay transparency” measure, to close the wage gap among federal workers and in federally regulated sectors, impacting some 1.2 million people.
_ The “Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare,” to be headed by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins, which will explore ways to establish a national drug program.
_ $3.2 billion over five years for Canadian science and research, including money for granting councils and Canada Research Chairs, upgrading outdated laboratory facilities and harnessing the power of “Big Data.”
_ $2.6 billion over five years for a wide array of measures to encourage and foster scientific innovation and gender equality in the field, including encouraging female entrepreneurs and business leaders, revamping procurement and expanding access to broadband internet.
_ A federal deficit of $18.1 billion, including a $3-billion “risk adjustment,” down from $19.3 billion last year, that’s projected to decline slowly over the next several years, reaching $12.3 billion ($9.3 billion without the $3-billion cushion) by 2022-23.
_ About $1.4 billion over six years to support Indigenous children in foster care and promote family reunification, plus $400 million over 10 years to upgrade and expand Inuit housing and $500 million for Metis housing.
_ Higher excise taxes on tobacco products, including a $1 increase on a carton of 200 cigarettes and an adjustment that would see taxes increase with inflation every year, rather than every five years.
_ $1.2 billion over five years and $344.7 million a year afterward for a new employment insurance parental sharing benefit that would provide additional “use-it-or-lose-it” benefits for non-birthing parents to encourage women to re-enter the workforce.
_ $2 billion over five years for international aid through a new International Assistance Innovation program, designed to come up with flexible new financing arrangements, and the Sovereign Loans program.
_ $155.2 million over five years for a new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security and $116 million over five years for the RCMP to create a National Cybercrime Co-ordination Unit.
_ $448.5 million over five years to double the number of placements under the Canada Summer Jobs program by 2019-20.
_ $172 million over five years and $42.5 million a year afterward for the Canada Media Fund to foster the growth of Canadian-produced content.
_ $50 million over five years to support “local journalism in underserved communities,” and plans to explore new models that would allow private and philanthropic support for “non-profit” journalism, including allowing Canadian newspapers to receive charitable status.
_ $75 million over five years, with $11.8 million a year afterward, to bolster Canada’s trade ties with China and Asia.
_ $191 million over five years to support jobs in the softwood lumber industry, including litigation under the World Trade Organization and NAFTA’s dispute resolution mechanism.
_ $90.6 million over five years to track down tax evaders and avoiders, plus $41.9 million over five years and $9.3 million a year thereafter to help Canada’s courts deal with the additional caseload.
_ Changes to income sprinkling, passive investment income and the small business tax rate that are expected to save the government $925 million a year by 2022-23.
_ $173.2 million in 2018-19 to support claim processing and to improve border security to better manage the increased number of people seeking asylum in Canada.