The federal budget had one overarching theme this year: women.
The Trudeau government’s third budget, titled Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class, had a gender-benefit analysis review of every budget measure to make sure it was equally beneficial to both genders.
Cullen on equality
Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen saw some good, bad, and unknown in the budget. Starting with the good, pay equity is good and long overdue, he said.
“A lot of women for many decades and generations have led this fight,” Cullen said.
In Canada, for every dollar of hourly wages a man working full-time earns, a woman earns 88 cents. The government announced in the budget it will implement pay-equity legislation. The law would include a pay-equity process for employers with fewer than 100 employees, and there will be pay equity requirements for federal employers with 10 or more employees.
Other parent leave
Use it or lose it, the federal government is offering non-birth parents five weeks of leave. Two-parent families will be eligible to use the additional leave and share the benefits up to a total of 40 weeks. This application of parental leave has been tested out in Quebec.
This option will cost $1.2 billion over five years and will be available starting June 2019 — months before the next federal election.
Reconciliation and Indigenous Peoples
The federal government dedicated a large portion of the budget for initiatives for First Nations, including $1.4 billion proposed for First Nations child and family services.
“This will be one of those devil in the details situations,” Cullen said. “We know First Nations kids on reserve face a funding gap of 30 – 32 per cent compared to children in Canada going to school off reserve.”
There will also be $1.8 billion spent over five years to improve water and wastewater infrastructure in First Nations communities, $2 billion over five years for Indigenous skills and employment training, and $600 million over three years will be spent on a 10-year First Nations Housing Strategy.
Small craft harbours
The federal government included $250 million for improving moorage facilities to allow for larger fishing vessels. The money will be provided on a cash basis for two years starting in 2018.
Cullen was unimpressed with the budget’s lack of consideration for fisheries.
“Considering the crisis we face in the fishery and the lack of funding for enforcement for monitoring, the Wild Salmon Policy, which is law, doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the money to actually enforce it,” he said.
Over five years, the government will provide $191 million to support and defend the Canadian forest industry from “unjustified” U.S. duties.
Cullen said he found it strange to include money for lawyers in a budget.
“If that’s all they’ve got, forestry communities are going to be very disappointed,” he said.
He added that the NDP passed a motion in the house to encourage the federal government to look into wood-first options when the government is building new structures or retrofitting. The Liberals voted for the motion, but Cullen was disappointed he didn’t see any commitment in the budget.