Budget 2021 must move Canada forward to a better future

In our submission to the Ministry of Finance’s consultation on the 2021 Budget, the Public Service Alliance of Canada made recommendations that the Government of Canada put in place programs and investments that will ensure that Canadians come out of the pandemic with a brighter, more secure future.

Covid-19 reminded us of the important role played by government and the public service. It has underlined the damage that has been done by years of underinvestment in public services and a growing disregard for the values underlying public service. The government’s budget must address the inequities exposed and exacerbated by the pandemic. It needs to fund a public service that can support a broad program of reconstruction to create a more resilient Canada. It must allocate the necessary resources for essential services that must either be provided by the public sector or regulated by the public sector in a way that ensures their essential nature is preserved – essential services such as food, water, income, health care and education security.

Indigenous women, women with disabilities, those with precarious immigration status, Black and racialized women and members of the trans and nonbinary community face even greater challenges, including the risk of losing decades of hard-won gender gains. As a society, we cannot simply return to the pre-pandemic status quo when we have an opportunity to address systemic inequality. The government must prioritize funding our social infrastructure.

 As services are added to the system, it is imperative that they be provided by public service workers, and not private contractors. Those services that are currently contracted out should be brought back into the public service. Federal public service jobs are strong economic drivers. In this critical time of economic uncertainty, a strong federal public service will provide both the best programs for Canadians, and an increase in stability in the job market and economy.

A sustainable economic recovery relies on workers’ ability to regain their earning power. But before parents of young children can return to work, they need access to affordable child care programs that meet their diverse needs. This is particularly true for women who have suffered disproportionately through the pandemic. Early learning and child care (ELCC) in Canada was already fragile before the pandemic because it is market-based, fragmented and under-funded. The government must invest $2 billion each year until it has succeeded in putting in place an affordable, inclusive and high quality publicly-funded ELCC system for all parents who want and need it.

The pandemic has made clear the crisis in the post-secondary education system.  Precarious work among post-secondary workers has become more common, making it more difficult for them to provide the highest quality education and services to students. Access to education is out of reach for many students, particularly low-income, racialized, Black and Indigenous students, and students living with disabilities. Now is the time for the government to boost direct federal funding for post-secondary education and to reduce student debt.

Never has it been more important to invest in Canada’s capacity to engage in foundational and applied research and to ensure that full research and science capacity exists in the country. The lack of ability to produce vaccines at this critical moment in time needs to be a clear signal to us all that Canada cannot be dependent on other nations for either research or production. The government must invest in publicly funded and owned research, first by fully implementing the recommendations of the 2017 Naylor report.

By implementing these, and the many other recommendations in our submission, the Government of Canada will show that it’s ready, and willing, to invest in a brighter future for Canadians.



February 26, 2021