The Liberals will tell you it’s about gender equality and helping the middle class. But what the 2019 federal budget is really about is growing the debt and shifting priorities towards women and minorities.
That’s what Finance Minister Bill Morneau told us Tuesday as he delivered the federal budget in the House of Commons.
The federal deficit is expected to be $18.1 billion for 2018-19. So much for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to balance the budget by 2019-20. Morneau says the budget deficit will fall to $12.3 billion by 2022-23, but can we really take these Liberals at their word? And what are they going to tell us about balancing the budget now?
The budget aims to increase the participation of women in the workforce, part of a longer-term plan to grow the economy and brace for the consequences of an aging population.
But does that mean there will be more people in the workforce or just less men?
CBC’s Kathleen Harris puts it this way: “…women are the big winners, with money targeting new parental supports, gender equality and anti-harassment initiatives, as well as measures to promote pay equity.”
Morneau said the goal isn’t simply fairness — it’s also to shield Canada’s long-term growth and labour market from the effects of a changing demographic.
“We believe that Canada’s future success rests on making sure that every Canadian has an opportunity to work, and to earn a good living from that work,” he said. “And that includes Canada’s talented, ambitious and hard-working women.”
But what’s all this mean for Canadian men?
“The Liberal government wants to increase the participation of women in the workforce — and that includes jobs that have traditionally dominated by men,” The Financial Post reports. “The federal government will allocate $19.9 million over five years, for a pilot apprenticeship incentive grant to provide women with up to $6,000 while training in male-dominated skilled trades, such as welding or pipe-fitting. Other measures include $1.4 billion over three years from the Business Development Bank in new financing for female entrepreneurs and $105 million over five years to help the regional development agencies support women-led businesses.”
OK, let’s ask the question again: What’s this mean for Canadian men?
There’s no clear answer to that in this budget.
“The Liberal government is also committing to increasing its overseas humanitarian aid budget by $2 billion over five years, which the budget says will be focused on supporting women and girls through its feminist international development policy. The budget also includes $20.3 million over five years to settle 1,000 more refugee women and girls from conflict zones around the globe,” the Financial Post story continues.
So maybe the question shouldn’t be who are the big winners in this budget, but rather who are the big losers. And clearly those are Canadian men, especially Canadian men out of the workforce with the focus now shifting to employment equity.
But, oh almost forgot, there was one plum for Canadian men in this budget.
Men will now be entitled to paternity leave. That’s right men can stay home to take care of children now too.
The new, federal paternity leave is modelled after Quebec, where dads can take up to five weeks of paternity leave. The province has seen the number of new fathers claiming or hoping to claim the benefit increase to over 85 per cent since implementing the measure. That compares to less than 15 per cent in the rest of Canada.
But Quebec’s paternity leave covers up to 70 per cent of income, which Policy Alternatives Analyst David Macdonald told Global News, is a major reason for the program’s large uptake.
Ottawa’s less generous model will help couples, but likely won’t see the same kind of participation rate among fathers that Quebec’s did, Macdonald said.
The budget sets aside $1.2 billion over five years for the paternity leave program and nearly $345 million a year thereafter. It will be formally known as EI Parental Sharing Benefit.
The new leave is expected to become available in June 2019.
But while there were some goodies in this budget for both women and men, there is still no clear answer on when the government plans to balance its books, only more projections. And we all know how the Trudeau government’s projections have worked out so far. All you have to do is look back on that now infamous broken promise to balance the budget by 2019-20. It’s not going to happen. It likely will never happen during the Trudeau government’s years in power.
Stephen D. James is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Stephen has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.