What the 2019 Federal Budget means for PSAC members

With a low GDP to debt ratio, and a manageable deficit, this government had the opportunity to invest in making life better for everyone. While there are some initiatives that we applaud, so much more could have, and should have been done. Here are some highlights:

Phoenix funding improves, but falls short

PSAC welcomes the new funding commitments made in the budget to address the Phoenix pay disaster, but they fall significantly short of what is required to end the pay nightmares and pay damages to Canada’s federal public service workers. Read the full reaction.

Nothing to protect precarious workers

We asked that this government stop encouraging precarious work through the use of temporary help agencies and casual contracts, yet there is not even a mention of precarious work, , temporary help agency workers or the Federal Contractors Program in this budget.

We also asked that this government establish a federal workers’ compensation plan that would protect these workers from near-certain poverty when injured, yet there is no mention of workers’ compensation or injured workers.

Enhancing Canadian public services

Modest investments in increased staffing at Service Canada, Employment Insurance, Canada Revenue Agency, and IRCC are welcome additions that we expect will provide enhanced service to Canadians. PSAC has made it clear that these workers should be hired as public service employees through traditional Human Resources methods, and not as precarious contract workers.

We also welcome the $55 million per year for the implementation of a Border Enforcement Strategy, to ensure our members who work for CBSA are provided with appropriate support and training to do their jobs.

Continued privatization of public infrastructure

We asked that this government move away from public-private partnerships (P3s) that have been proven to be a failed model for building important community infrastructure.  They increase both the cost and risk for taxpayers. There are no signs in Budget 2019 that this government will begin to avoid P3s.

The affordable child care crisis continues

There is no new money for child care, only a repeat of the funding announced in 2016. This funding falls far short of the national plan needed to deliver affordable child care for all. Parents in Canada continue to face exorbitant bills and long waitlists – if they can find a spot at all.

Some gender equity initiatives

The newly created department of Women’s and Gender Equality is getting a boost of $160 million over five years – fulfilling a long-held demand from women’s organizations to properly fund feminist community work.  

Some graduate students and postdocs will now be eligible for 12 month paid parental leave. This is a win for early career researchers – especially women researchers. But for far too many workers’ current parental leave benefits fall short – and this budget does nothing to solve that. Most of the self-employed and precarious workers can’t access parental leave from EI at all.

Budget 2019 offers an additional $1.5 million over 5 years to support departments to enact robust gender-based analysis (GBA+) of all initiatives. We welcome the development of standardized frameworks and tools for GBA+ data collection and reporting.

Some steps in the right direction toward reconciliation

The $1.4 billion allotted for a long-term approach to services for First Nations Children is welcomed, even if it falls short of the money needed, and comes only after the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal had issued seven relief orders since the federal government was found to have been discriminating against First Nations children for decades.

Budget 2019 also forgives or reimburses $1.2 billion in loans that Indigenous groups were forced to borrow in order to negotiate land settlements. In addition, the budget allocated $739 million over the next five years for safe drinking water. Although welcome, this funding, will not be enough to fulfill the government’s pledge in 2016 to end boil water advisories within five years.

Budget 2019 overlooks the needs Indigenous women

As the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is completed, there has been no dedicated funding for Indigenous women’s organizations, to support andcarry out the necessary work that will come out of the recommendations of the Inquiry. This is a glaring gap.

Some positive LGBTQ2+ initiatives

Budget 2019 promises $20 million over 2 years for community-based initiatives to support LGBTQ2+ people in Canada. Details on how the funding will be distributed and what issues will be prioritized are scarce. The budget also commits to $1.2 million in 2020-21 to continue the work of the LGBTQ2+ Secretariat, which has worked with stakeholders across the country on LGBTQ2+ issues.

Support for Racially Visible workers

We welcome the investment of $45 million over three years to support a new Anti-Racism Strategy along with an Anti-Racism Secretariat. We hope the government will integrate PSAC’s recommendations in making a stronger commitment to employment equity, accessible and transparent staffing processes and reconciliation with the Indigenous community. The $25 million over five years for projects and capital assistance to celebrate, share knowledge, and build capacity in Black Canadian communities is long awaited funding.

Mixed reviews on immigration and refugee initiatives

We welcome the $283.1 million over two years to ensure refugees and other eligible claimants have access to temporary health coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program.

We further welcome the legislative changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to ensure immigrants and refugees are not forced to spend longer periods of time in Immigration Holding Centres.

The increase in funding for Immigration, Refugees and Citizen Canada (IRCC) call centres is also a positive investment that will ensure that calls are handled more quickly and efficiently. However, it is minimal in the face of what is needed to better support the hurdles facing newcomers.

Support for workers with disabilities long overdue

We welcome the ongoing implementation and funding of the Accessible Canada Act. This includes the additional funding of $13.7 million over five years, plus an additional $2.9 million per year ongoing to Shared Services Canada to identify, remove, and prevent technological barriers in federal government workplaces. We also welcome the $12 million to improve employment outcomes for persons with intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder. These are all steps toward eliminating the many barriers faced by persons with disabilities that leave them underrepresented in the federal public service.

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March 29, 2019
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