The federal budget has emphasized on skills training and job creation. It has also focused on being gender-based and puts emphasis on the middle-class. However, it is also a deficit budget. With a projected revenue of $304.7 billion dollars and expenditure of $330.2 billion, the budget is forecasted to have a deficit of $28.5 billion in 2017-18, which means that the federal debt is expected to be 31.6 percent of GDP in this fiscal year. http://www.budget.gc.ca/2017/docs/plan/budget-2017-en.pdf
The budget allocates additional funding to skills development. Currently, under the existing Labour Market Transfer Agreements, the federal government provides $3 billion per year to provinces and territories for skills development and employment support that help Canadians in entering, returning or maintaining employment. The budget has allocated an additional $2.7 billion over six years to expand these agreements and increase access to training and employment assistance. Also, Canada Student Loans and Grants will help adult learners access post-secondary and part-time education. In a rapidly changing economic and employment landscape, policies that allow Canadians to access education and improve their skills will be very beneficial. It will improve the human capital of Canadians that will make them more capable employees. This will enable Canadians to obtain high paying jobs that will improve their standard of living while reinvigorating the Canadian economy.
The budget allocates funds to increase internet literacy among the low-income segment of the population. In a new Affordable Access program, it will allocate $13.2 million over five years to provide low-cost home internet with refurbished computers to low-income families. This will particularly benefit women as they are overrepresented in this economic class. It also allocates $29.5 million over five years to a new digital literacy exchange program. This will improve internet literacy among some groups like seniors and low-income Canadians. These initiatives are commendable as access to internet and internet literacy are important in developing human capital of low-income groups as well as improve functionality of others like seniors.
Budget 2017 has proposed providing $691.3 million over five years starting in 2017-18 and $168.1 million per year thereafter to a new Employment Insurance (EI) caregiver benefit. According to this new benefit, eligible caregivers will be allowed 15 weeks of EI benefits when they are temporarily away from work for taking care of family members who need attention. It may help women more than men as women participate in more caregiving than men. This proposed benefit will be humane and very beneficial for employees who need to take care of their sick or injured loved ones. It will allow people to worry less about work and missed income during times of distress, possibly leading to a more productive, less stressed and happier working population.
The budget has proposed an investment of $7 billion over ten years in early learning and child care initiatives. By reducing the burden of child care costs, it will help support families having children. Lower child care costs and early learning will benefit working mothers and their children, which will have a positive effect on the population, economy and country from the shot-term to the long-term. Again, a proposed investment of more than $11.2 billion over eleven years starting from 2017-18 to a National Housing Strategy will help Canadians to find adequate, suitable and affordable housing, including a large number of single women and single mothers. This investment will help as housing is a formidable challenge that Canadians face. The Strategy will invest $2.1 billion over ten years starting in 2018-19, to renew and expand the Homelessness Partnering Strategy that will help homeless Canadians to access housing. This Strategy will improve the quality of life of Canadians, including vulnerable citizens.
In Budget 2017, there is targeted investments of $11 billion over ten years to the provinces and territories for home care and mental health services. Home care will particularly benefit women as they account for a significant percentage of home care clients and providers. Also, mental health is very important for all segments of the population. Funding that will shorten the wait times for mental health services will be very beneficial. A physically and mentally healthy population means a more productive and happier workforce as well as happier citizens. Investments in home care and mental health services are expected to yield benefits from the short-run to the long-run. Again, investments in health services for First Nations and Inuit people as well as Urban Indigenous Strategy will lead to positive effects for them including women. Provisions in the budget to address gender-based violence and support for the LGBTQ community are important and are predicted to yield socially beneficial results. Investments in the physical and mental health of the population definitely yield very beneficial results.
The budget has allocated $39.9 million to Statistics Canada over five years to develop and implement the Housing Statistics Framework (HSF). The framework will create a nationwide database of residential properties in Canada which will help to gather data on foreign ownership. This database will be helpful to understand the underlying reasons of soaring real estate prices.
Even though the budget has proposed investments to important areas, it is a deficit budget. The deficit aspect of the budget is predicted to continue till 2021-22 when it will decrease to $18.8 billion dollars and the federal debt slightly decreases to 30.9 percent. A deficit budget is not necessarily bad; however, continued deficit budget for a prolonged time may lead to challenges in reducing a burgeoning federal debt. It should be mentioned that Canada’s net debt-GDP ratio is favourable compared to other G7 countries.
The budget, even though is a deficit budget, has proposed investments in important aspects like Pathways to Education Canada which will provide support to youth from low-income neighbourhoods to complete high school. Also, the imposition of same tax on Uber as taxis can be considered fair. Provisions in the budget to allow Canadians to access education and improve their skills are commendable. Again, proposed investments in home care and mental health services, affordable housing, early learning and child care initiatives, revamped Employment Insurance benefit are predicted to improve the lives of Canadians, Canadian workers and the economy. This budget proposes investments on Canadians that will definitely yield positive outcomes in various ways including socially and economically.