The federal budget had one overarching theme this year: Women.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s third budget titled Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class had a gender benefit analysis review every budget measure to make sure it was equally beneficial to both genders.
But how the federal government’s budget will affect northwestern B.C. is less specific, said John Wonfor, a spokesperson for the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada.
Still in the red
While there was a ton of language to create balance when it comes to gender in the workplace, there wasn’t much language on having a balanced budget — with the deficit projected at $18.1 billion in 2018-19.
“We’re running budget deficits right now, and the budget deficit was a bit better than everybody expected just because the Canadian economy is performing well. But we were kind of looking in the medium term for the government to try to get their budget back into balance and the government has given no indication at all that balancing the budget is a priority for them,” Wonfor said.
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.
“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.
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.
The government will lower taxes on small businesses from 10.5 per cent to nine per cent by 2019. However, the budget clarifies that wealthy corporate owners won’t be able to benefit from the tax advantages by keeping personal savings within their private corporate income — known as passive investments.
If a business earns more than $50,000 of passive investment income in a year the business will have less income eligible for the small business tax rate.
Cullen said he is going to be speaking with businesses in the northwest to see how they feel about these new tax policies and what the real impact will be.
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. 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,” Cullen said.
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.