This week, the federal government tabled a Fall Economic Statement laying the foundation for many of the social programs that will drive a just and equitable economic recovery from the pandemic.
There was some positive movement on key issues like child care, long-term care and pandemic relief, but much more will be needed in the upcoming federal budget to address these issues and more.
Child care and support for women
The government took a welcome step forward towards a national child care system with the creation of a Federal Secretariat on Early Learning and Child Care, and committing $420 million this year to address the crisis of recruitment and retention of staff in the child care sector. However, we'll need to see real and substantial funding in the federal budget to make the promise of building a universal system a reality.
Every delay hurts Canadian families struggling to pay high daycare fees or find available spots during the pandemic. Women have been disproportionately driven out of the workplace due to lack of child care, and helping them return to work will be a key part of our economic recovery.
Just last week, a new study from the Centre for Future Work showed how a national child care plan would more than pay for itself, creating over 280,000 jobs and increasing GDP by between $63 and $107 billion over ten years.
PSAC welcomes the government’s financial commitment to improving long term care centres, considering over 75% of Canada’s COVID-19 deaths have happened in long-term care centres.
However, more funding alone will not address the chronic and systemic problems with long term care in Canada, which COVID-19 has worsened. The deplorable situation in long term care is a national crisis in need of a bold solution.
The evidence clearly demonstrates that for-profit long term care facilities have worse outcomes for residents than public, non-profit homes. There can be no solution until we take profit out of long-term care.
PSAC members continue to go above and beyond to deliver the financial assistance Canadians rely on during the pandemic.
It’s encouraging to see the government continue to provide financial relief for the most vulnerable Canadians impacted by COVID-19, including the Canada Recovery Benefits, enhancements to Employment Insurance, and additional relief for caretakers.
However, PSAC continues to urge the government to create an inclusive, streamlined and simplified EI program that doesn’t disadvantage low-paid and gig economy workers and makes sure nobody slips through the cracks of the pandemic relief measures.
This government must also commit to providing all workers with access to paid sick leave in the 2021 federal budget.
While the government did take some early steps towards a national pharmacare plan, including the creation a new Canadian Drug Agency and initiating talks with provinces and territories on pharmacare, more must be done to help Canadians struggling to pay for prescription medicine.
Roughly one third of working Canadians don’t have drug coverage through their work, and those workers are feeling the pinch during the pandemic now more than ever.
Nobody should have to choose between paying for rent or paying for the medicine they need – especially since it would simply put even more stress on our health care system.
We need the federal government to move more quickly to establish a national, publicly administered universal drug plan for every Canadian.
Green infrastructure and job creation
We agree that the way to kick-start local economies and fight climate change is by investing in green infrastructure, but handing the job over to the private sector isn’t the right approach.
Partnering with the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) will end up costing more and delivering projects that aren’t designed to meet the needs of our communities. We should take this opportunity to expand public infrastructure and public services that have proven to be so critical during this pandemic. It will also help anchor our communities in reliable, good-paying jobs.
Expenses for working from home
PSAC applauds the government for providing $400 in financial relief to Canadians who continue to work from home during the pandemic.
The streamlined expense claim will simplify the lives of workers who already have so much on their plates while allowing our members at the Canada Revenue Agency to focus on providing financial relief to other vulnerable Canadians.
Diversity and inclusion
We are encouraged by the funding to support diversity and inclusion in workplaces and stamp out systemic racism across Canada, including efforts to modernize the Employment Equity Act to better reflect Canada’s diversity as well as $12 million over three years towards a dedicated Centre for Diversity in the Federal Public Service.
The Centre will aim to improve representation of marginalized groups in the public service, hold managers accountable for increasing diversity and fostering inclusion in federal workplaces, and address systemic racism by reducing harassment and discrimination.
Systemic racism is present in all Canadian institutions, including the workplace. Workers deserve – and demand – a representative and discrimination-free workplace. PSAC hopes that sustained funding for the Centre for Diversity will result in healthier workplaces for all.
PSAC also welcomes the federal Liberals’ commitments in the fall economic statement to introduce fair tax measures, including taxation of e-commerce giants, hiring additional CRA auditors to combat international tax evasion, and applying GST to digital imports and goods from foreign vendors.
However, more progressive tax reforms will be needed to address wealth inequality.