PSAC welcomes the measures in the 2021 budget that respond to the needs of Canadians hardest hit by the pandemic.
Our union is also very pleased to see the significant investment in universal child care, a commitment to finally establishing a federal $15 minimum wage, and resources to battle systemic racism in the federal public service and beyond.
“This historic investment in universal child care is a lifeline for parents who are struggling to afford rising child care fees,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “This is a major victory for our union and child care advocates who have been fighting for affordable, accessible and universal child care for decades. We will ensure that this government will follow through on this commitment.”
The program is key to ensuring parents, especially women who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, re-join the workforce and help drive Canada’s economic recovery.
The government’s increased pandemic support, including the new Canada Recovery Hiring Program, recognizes PSAC members’ success in delivering these critical services to Canadians and underscores the important role of a strong public service.
“Now more than ever, Canadians need to be reassured that they’ll still be able to pay their bills even if they can’t work because of COVID-19,” said Aylward. “Public service workers stepped up when Canadians needed them most, and they’ll continue to deliver the financial aid workers depend on.”
It remains disappointing that the government failed to act on its commitment to create a national, universal pharmacare program. Canadians need pharmacare now more than ever as workers continue to lose access to prescription drug coverage because of pandemic job losses.
The government also continues to fund important community infrastructure by putting the profits of private companies before the needs of Canadians through the Canada Infrastructure Bank and increased Social Financing.
“Privatization of public assets and services costs more, provides poorer service and increases safety and security risks, all while leaving the government – and Canadian taxpayers – on the hook to foot the larger bill,” said Aylward.
Other important takeaways from the budget include:
Combatting Systemic racism and Anti-Black racism
The pandemic has shined a light on systemic racism – including anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and anti-Asian racism – in our workplaces, criminal justice system, healthcare and other institutions. In its budget, the government unveiled encouraging first steps towards combatting systemic racism in Canada, including funding for organizations to address hate-motivated racism and funding to improve social and economic outcomes in Black communities and to support Black-led non-profit organizations. There will also be funding to address over-representation of Indigenous, Black and other racialized groups in the youth justice system.
The budget also announced $172 million over five years to implement a disaggregated data action plan that will fill data and knowledge gaps in employment, criminal justice and other social services. PSAC has been calling for this data because it’s crucial in understanding the disparities for specific equity-seeking communities. However, the scope should be expanded to include other identities such as ability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, and should examine the data from an intersectional lens.
PSAC will continue to monitor these initiatives to ensure they’re rolled out effectively, with the input from those communities most directly impacted.
PSAC welcomes the more than $18 billion in additional funding promised over five years to support Indigenous communities in the areas of education, health services, clean water, family services, and infrastructure. Our union has long fought for Indigenous rights and social infrastructures for urban and on-reserve Indigenous communities. It is imperative that these programs are community-based and led by Indigenous peoples, and that they are applied with a distinctions-based approach.
However, more federal funding will still be needed to close the socio-economic gap faced by Indigenous Peoples. And two years after the fact, there is still no national action plan to end violence against Indigenous Women and Girls.
The budget falls short for PSAC members in the post-secondary education sector. What’s missing, and what we’ve demanded, is an increase in transfer payments, especially to small, new or regional schools, so that university workers no longer need to work precarious jobs and that crises like the one at Laurentian University in Sudbury never happen again.
Some relief is coming for students, though, with commitments to double the Canada Student Grant program for an additional two years, and increasing tuition support for Indigenous and francophone students. Interest on student loans will also be waived until March 31, 2023. This is a good start, and PSAC is hopeful these will be permanent measures.
Canadian public service workers are now in their 5th year of dealing with Phoenix pay issues, and they need a pay system that works. We expect the government to continue consulting with unions and public service workers as they move ahead with the testing and implementation of the next generation pay system.
While the government committed an additional $47 million to eliminate the backlog of pay problems and support PSAC members processing pay transactions, five years later, there are still 94,000 pay issues in the backlog, which the government has committed to eliminating by December 2022.
Women and gender equity
It’s encouraging to see the 2021 budget prioritize women’s economic well-being by investing in universal child care, a national action plan on gender-based violence and increased funding for gender-based violence services which will benefit our members and their communities.
The government put forward $30 billion over five years for universal child care along with ongoing, permanent funding. The multi-year plan will reduce average parent fees to $10 a day within five years through a 50/50 cost-sharing model with provincial and territorial governments. The government has also committed to enshrining a Canada-wide system of early learning and child care in federal legislation this fall and creating a new Federal Secretariat on Early Learning and Child Care.
This will help drive a sustainable recovery as parents are able to work and contribute to Canada’s economy. This is especially true for women, particularly from equity-seeking groups, who have suffered disproportionately throughout the pandemic.
Affordable housing is a long-standing issue, especially for women and children fleeing violence. PSAC is pleased to see the government invest $2.5 billion over seven years in the development of affordable housing.
PSAC also welcomes funding to establish a national action plan to end Gender-Based Violence Secretariat. And to support gender-based violence organizations and programs. Addressing gender-based violence continues to be a priority for PSAC, especially as cases of gender-based violence have been on the rise during the pandemic due to job losses, financial stress and increased isolation.
The government set aside significant funding to address accessibility for Canadians, which is a major barrier for our members that must be addressed so that all people with disabilities can fully access and participate in their communities and workplaces.
People living with disabilities are disproportionately financially insecure and have greater costs of living due to their disabilities. That’s why it’s encouraging to see the government is expanding the eligibility criteria for the Disability tax credit. This will help many families who were not eligible under the current criteria.
The government has also committed to launch consultations around reforming the eligibility for federal disability programs and benefits. This could have life-changing impacts for people living with disabilities and their families. PSAC will be following the committee’s work with great interest.
LGBTQ2+ communities continue to face discrimination, harassment, and violence across Canada, resulting in mental health issues, under-employment and isolation.
We are pleased to see $7.1 million in support of the work of the LGBTQ2 Secretariat and enable the development of an LGBTQ2 Action Plan. Funding has also been allocated to support mental health and employment for LGBTQ2+ communities. Bisexual, Trans and racialized members of LGBTQ2+ communities face increased barriers to gaining employment, and these programs and funding will specifically address their needs.
Yet even though the federal budget has promised to strengthen access to health care, specific consideration must be given to LGBTQ2+ communities because they continue to face stigma and discrimination in health care services. The budget also doesn’t provide specific supports for gender-affirming health care for transgender people.
The government failed to move the needle on Employment Insurance for Canadians, merely increasing sick benefits to 26 weeks from 15 weeks. These changes come into effect a year too late for workers living with long-term COVID symptoms or those waiting for cancer care, surgery and other care delayed by the pandemic, leaving too many Canadians behind.
It’s also extremely disappointing the government has delayed their commitment to provide EI for gig economy workers who have borne the brunt of COVID-19 job uncertainty.
PSAC looks forward to ensuring the measures proposed in the 2021 budget are implemented and will continue to fight for the investments needed to ensure a fairer, more just Canada for its members, and all Canadians.
For a more in-depth analysis of the 2021 federal budget, click here.