Federal budget 2009 adds big dollars to federal spending, but fails to target those investments at the Canadians who are suffering the most in the current economic recession, according to the Wellesley Institute, an independent research and policy institute. “The federal government deserves credit for boosting federal spending to meet Canada’s economic, health and social challenges,” says Rick Blickstead, CEO of the Wellesley Institute. “But it’s not just about big spending, it’s about smart spending. A tax credit here and some spending there doesn’t add up to an effective plan to build a strong, healthy and equitable economy.” The federal budget fails to meet a number of economic, social and health priorities:
- For the three million Canadian households that are precariously housed, today’s federal budget delivers $1 billion to renovate existing social housing and $1 billion to build new homes for seniors, Aboriginal people living on reserve, people with disabilities and those in the north. This is significant, but pales in comparison to the $5 billion-plus being offered to wealthier Canadians who already own homes and cottages and want to build a new deck or pave their driveway.
- Wellesley Institute research shows that every $1,000 increase in household income for the lowest-income Canadians delivers real health benefits. Today’s federal budget fails to put real dollars into the pockets of the poorest Canadians. Adding money to the back-end for people already receiving employment insurance doesn’t help the millions of Canadians who can’t even qualify for EI because of overly strict regulations.
- The third sector – non-profit, charitable and voluntary organizations – is a big part of the Canadian economy, generating tens of billions of dollars in economic activity, including plenty of jobs. For years, the government has taken the third sector for granted, and today’s budget continues that pattern of neglect. Third sector groups are on the frontlines in providing practical support to the victims of the economic crisis, but they won’t get any help from the 2009 budget.
- Canadians place a high value on our national health care system, and we need to continue to fund innovative and cost-effective health solutions like an expanded network of community health centres. Today’s budget delivers nothing to expand our health care system.
- Transit and other municipal infrastructure spending would provide powerful economic stimulus, and strengthen communities, but the promises in federal budget 2009 fall far short of the needs set out by municipalities. And the new program rules and cost-sharing requirements will further restrict any benefit. Asking cash-strapped municipalities to go further into debt to access federal dollars won’t help renew local social and physical infrastructure.
The Wellesley Institute is preparing a more detailed budget analysis and will post it shortly.