2016 Federal Budget Kick-Starts 2015 Campaign Promises
Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled the 2016 Budget today in the House of Commons. The 2016 Budget is the first of a Liberal government in ten years, and the first under prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Putting a new government's signature on its first budget is a task in itself; to have done so in a matter of weeks is among the tallest orders confronting a new government.
As expected, this budget "starts the engines" on the 2015 Liberal campaign promises, and does so using many existing mechanisms asa kick-start, accompanied by announcements of consultations and bigger things to come.
House of Commons - Ottawa
Case in point: funding for affordable housing. The budget extended spending in this envelope, but did so through the existing homelessness reduction strategy. A more comprehensive national strategy on broader-based affordable housing (including special needs housing) is a task that will now just start.
To begin with, this budget proposes to repeal the Federal Balanced Budget Act, allowing this government to move forward on deficit-financing measures, as promised during the 2015 campaign.
Perhaps the most notable feature of this budget is its volume of proposed measures in the broader "indigenous" category - what several observers estimate is the greatest amount of fiscal activity and proposed programming ever.
Affordable Housing /Infrastructure
In a marked difference from the last ten years of stimulus spending, the trajectory in this budget focuses on creating foundational conditions for l9ong-term growth. Translation: funding priorities will not target quick fixes of cash infusions.
To support the construction of new affordable housing units, the renovation and repair of existing affordable housing, measures to support housing affordability such as rent supplements, and measures to foster safe, independent living, the Government will invest $504.4 million over two years starting in 2016-17.
Budget 2016 proposes to reallocate $30 million over two years, starting in 2016-17, to help these providers maintain rent-geared-to-income for households living in social housing. This additional support would be provided ona time-limited basis until long-term approaches to help the social housing sector achieve self-reliance can be developed through consultations with provinces, territories and stakeholders.
Budget 2016 proposes to invest $208.3 million over five years, starting in 2016-17, in an Affordable Rental Housing Innovation Fund, to be administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Funding would be used to test innovative business approaches - such as housing models with a mix of rental and home ownership - to lower the costs and risks of financing affordable rental housing projects. This investment is expected to support the construction of up to 4,000 new affordable housing rental units over five years.
Budget 2016 proposes initial social infrastructure investments totaling $3.4 billion over five years. These investments will help expand affordable housing (including shelters for victims of violence), support early learning and child care, renew cultural and recreational infrastructure, and improve community health care facilities on reserve.
Budget 2016 proposes to provide an additional $125 million in 2016-17 for the Labour Market Development Agreements, and an additional $50 million in 2016-17 for the Canada Job Fund Agreements.
The Government will conduct broad-based consultations with provinces, territories and stakeholders in 2016-17 to identify ways to improve these agreements and guide future investments to strengthen labour market programming.
Disability: Tax Measures, Enabling Accessibility Fund
Budget 2016 proposes to provide an additional $4 million over two years, starting in 2016-17 for the Enabling Accessibility Fund to support the capital costs of construction and renovation related to improving physical accessibility and safety for people with disabilities in Canadian communities.
To recognize the additional costs of caring for a child with a severe disability, Budget 2016 proposes to continue to provide the Child Disability Benefit, an additional amount of up to $2,730 per child eligible for the Disability Tax Credit.
To expand employment opportunities for young Canadians, Budget 2016 proposes to invest an additional $165.4 million in the Youth Employment Strategy in 2016-17.
Funding will be used to:
- create new green jobs for youth, to help young Canadians gain valuable work experience, learn about our natural environment and contribute to economic growth in environmental sectors.
- to eliminate systemic barriers and deliver equality of opportunity to all Canadians living with disabilities, the government will consult with provinces, territories, municipalities and stakeholders to introduce a Canadians with Disabilities Act. This budget allocates $2 million over two years, starting in 2016-17, to support the full participation of Canadians with disabilities in this process.
- increase the number of youth who access the Skills Link program, which helps young Canadians-including indigenous and disabled youth-make a more successful transition to the workforce; and
- increase job opportunities for young Canadians in the heritage sector, under the Young Canada Works program.
Seniors also received significant attention in this budget.
- $3.4 billion dollars over five years will be allocated to lift low-income single seniors out of poverty with a significant increase to Guaranteed Income Supplement top-up benefits.
- Budget 2016 will increase the Guarante4e4d Income Supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for single seniors starting in July 2016.
- In the coming months, the Government will launch consultations to give Canadians an opportunity to share their views on enhancing the Canada pension Plan.
- Budget 2016 proposes to cancel the provision in the Old Age Security Act that increase the age of eligi8bility of Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits from 65 to 67 and Allowance benefits from 60 to 62 over the 2023 to 2029 period.
- The Government is also looking at how a new Seniors Price Index that reflects the cost of living faced by seniors could be developed.
- As previously hinted at by the Minister of Health, the Government is committed to working in partnership with provinces and territories to negotiate a new multi-year health accord.
- As well, the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement is a not-for-profit organization funded by the Government of Canada that is dedicated to accelerating health care improvements and efficiencies - this entity will receive $39 million over three years, starting in 2016-17, for Healthcare improvement to support its ongoing efforts to identify and introduce innovations in the health care system.
More to come
Additional information on the Government of Canada's 2016 budget may be found at:
www.budget.gc.ca and at the official Twitter feed #Budget2016
March of Dimes Canada's Recommendation Makes It Into The 2015 Budget
April 21, 2015
House of Commons - Ottawa
The dramatic decrease in oil prices this year has made an impact on most provincial budgets, notably those of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, and the 2015-2016 budget of the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is no exception to this trend.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered his first budget this afternoon, attempting to juggle much-anticipated tax breaks with a fragile economy, and, most certainly, the realities of an election year, yielding a typical "something-for-everyone" spending plan.
Dubbed "Economic Action 2015", this year's books are being balanced through the sale of GM shares and use of part of the contingency fund.
It is confirmed that contributions to the TFSA are increased to $10,000.
A new measure, and one we can say has been proudly promoted and formally recommended by March of Dimes Canada in three pre-budget submissions in recent years, is the Home Accessibility Tax Credit, targeted to seniors and Canadians with disabilities.
The Compassionate Care EI benefit will be increased from six weeks to six months.
Added leniency to the RRIF will help seniors protect savings.
The Budget proposes to support the charitable and non-profit sector by exempting donations involving private shares and real estate from capital gains tax, and providing charities with more flexibility to diversify their investments.
The government intends to introduce a new Retirement Income Security Benefit that will provide additional financial security after the age of 65 for moderately to severely disabled veterans. Also on the veterans front, it is proposed to expand access to the Permanent Impairment Allowance to help compensate disabled veterans for the loss of career opportunities associated with their disabilities. Most notably, a new tax-free Family Caregiver Relief Benefit will be introduced to recognize the vital contributions of informal caregivers to the health and well-being of veterans. And the level of individualized care to veterans requiring regular support will be increased by improving the ratio of veterans to case managers.
$150 million over four years will be allocated to allow cooperative and non-profit social housing providers to prepay long-term, non-renewable mortgages held with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation without penalty.
As mentioned, the new Home Accessibility Tax Credit for persons with disabilities and seniors to help with the costs of ensuring their homes remain safe, secure and accessible is introduced for the first time - a home modification of a sort. This is greatly applauded.
This Budget allocates $2.0 million in 2015-16 to support stakeholder consultations on a Canadian Autism Partnership.
Adjustments to the RDSP extend the temporary measure that allows a qualifying family member to become in plan holder of a Registered Disability Savings Plan.
Interestingly, the government will be introducing amendments to the Copyright Act that will enable Canada to implement and accede to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.
Health care transfers are to be increased by a projected $27 billion over the next five years. Another measure provides $14 million over two years for the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement to help identify efficiencies in the health system. Further investment in health sees a renewal of the mandate of the Mental Health Commission of Canada for another 10 years, beginning in 2017-18. Finally, this Budget provides up to $42 million over five years, Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (to be based at Baycrest), another initiative in which March of Dimes Canada has worked and advocated alongside the Neurological health Charities Canada group.
Additional information on the Government of Canada's 2015 Budget may be found at:
Caregivers a Hidden Gem in 2014 Federal Budget
February 11, 2014
House of Commons - Ottawa
While most media outlets told us about the government's intent to balance the federal budget by 2015, what most people didn't hear is that the Harper Government's 2014 is yet another step in the Government of Canada recognizing the important contributions that Canadians with disabilities and their caregivers make to our society and the national economy.
For the past several years during the pre-budget consultation process, March of Dimes Canada has emphasized the need to both recognize such contributions as well as develop a long-term plan that addresses the challenges related to aging and disability, including the role of caregivers. In fact, in August of 2013 we advised that the Standing Committee on Finance at least recommend the establishment of a task force or panel group to consider such issues.
We are thrilled to learn that the government is announcing that it will launch a Canadian Employers for Caregivers Plan to help maximize caregivers' labour market participation. While much more needs to be done, this is an excellent first step.
March of Dimes Canada has a long history of working with governments throughout Canada to consider how to address the needs of Canadians with disabilities, their employers, families and caregivers. And we will be available to work with the Minister of State (Seniors) when the formal announcement of the Plan is made.
Other noteworthy items, especially for March of Dimes Canada, focus on the employment front. The Canada Job Grant, introduced in last year's budget, still does not have the buy-in from any provincial government. Minister Flaherty pointed out in his Budget Speech that - with or without provincial participation - the Canada Job Grant will commence April 1 of this year. Where this is till no agreement with a provincial government, the Canada Job Grant will be delivered federally through Service Canada centre.
Announcements were made that the Government of Canada will introduce a new generation of Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities. The 2014 Budget increases investments for Canadians with disabilities seeking employment. Internships in high-demand fields will find life through two new programs: Ready, Willing and Able; and an enhanced job match service.
In total, this Budget commits more than $500 million a year to job training programs.
The New Horizons for Seniors program receives a small investment of nearly $5 million.
Finally, the federal government will introduce measures that will further reduce the administrative burden on charities, encourage charitable government and allow charities to use modern electronic tools. Funding will be provided to the Canada Revenue Agency to modernize technology, allowing charities to file online.
To further facilitate charitable giving, the trustee of an individual's estate will now be allowed increased flexibility to apply charitable donation credits against the income tax liabilities of the individual or the estate.
This Budget also proposes and amendment to the Criminal Code that will allow charities to conduct various aspects of lotteries through the use of a computer. The use of a computer will also allow charities to use modern e-commerce methods for the purchasing, processing and issuing of lottery tickets and issuing of receipts to donors.
Additional information of the Government of Canada's 2014 Budget may be found at: www.budget.gc.ca/2014/home-accueil-eng.html
Critical view of the 2013 Speech from the Throne
Most media commentators have taken a critical view of the 2013 Speech from the Throne, delivered by Governon-General David Johnston on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.
This year's Speech -- the general policy trajectory of the government over the next session of Parliament -- is overwhelmingly stacked with past and ongoing activity or achievements, with notably few new commitments announced.
The media have amply explored such items as reduced roaming charges, better option for cable subscribers, and Senate reform. The following are the relatively few items of relevance for our sector.
- Our Government will introduce balanced-budget legislation. It will require balanced budgets during normal economic times.
Controversial at best. Deficit spending, in important areas such as job creation or social services, during a recession would be prohibited by law.
- Will freeze the overall operating budget.
No surprise. This government has reiterated similar themes over the past eight years.
- Will continue implementing the Canada Job Grant.
- Will take further steps to ensure that people with disabilities receive the job training they need.
Based on informal feedback from senior officials, the sector's concern about cuts to employment programs for Canadians with disabilities and other vulnerable workers appear to have been heeded, and may very well be secure. This is also corroboratedby the following commitment:
- Will work with the provinces and territories towards new labour market agreements to more effectively connect people with disabilities to employers and in-demand jobs.
The following commitment is devoid of necessary details, but one could infer that such a move would involve adjustment to the relevant employment insurance schemes.
- Build on our caregiver tax credit by working with employers to better accommodate Canadians caring for older family members.
Again, the following quote contains no details. More to come.
- Help seniors quickly access information about the programs and services they need in their communities.
We will want to watch this closely, given our current work with veterans across the country.
- Will reach out to homeless veterans to give them the support they need.
Finally, the following commitment presumably extends from the commitments announced in the 2013 spring budget:
- Build on the successful Housing First approach and its renewed Homelessness Partnering Strategy to help house vulnerable Canadians.
Herein lies the theme of where the federal government will be going. Important as this is, even more critical will be the ways in which they get there, and how such commitments will see life in this Session's legislative, particularly the 2014 federal budget.
2013 Federal Budget
Delivered Hon. Jim Flaherty, PC, MP, Minister of Finance House of Commons - Ottawa
Thursday March 21, 2013
Much of the 2013 Federal Budget, delivered by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, contained few surprises. As has become somewhat customary in recent years, significant details of the Government's spending program have been unofficially revealed to the media in the last few weeks (incidentally, something that used to carry the penalty of beheading in Westminster).
Jobs and growth formed the main thematic pillar of the budget, with a reiterated commitment of balancing the budget for 2015.
Families took an early spotlight in the Budget Speech, with Minister Flaherty announcing that transfers, be they health care to the provinces or individual transfers to seniors, would not be affected.
Training and the "skills mismatch", or the need to provide the "right" training, was also emphasized by Flaherty, a deficit that employers nation-wide have cited over the last few years.
This Budget introduces the Canada Job Grant, which will provide $15,000 per person for job training, with the employer required to provide matching funds and the provinces providing roughly a third of the cost. Job seekers will train in a variety of venues, ranging from colleges to union halls. The labour-market agreements with the Provinces expire in 2014, which will then be renegotiated around the Canada Job Grant.
Canadians with disabilities were singled out as a target for job training and opening job opportunity, an announcement extending from the task force last year in which private sector representatives considered how to enhance employment prospects for Canadians with disabilities. Specifically, the Budget aims to achieve the following: Enhance skills training opportunities for Canadians with disabilities through a new generation of Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities that will be introduced by 2014, and reforming and extending the Opportunities Fund to provide more demand-driven training solutions for persons with disabilities. Employment Services for Canadians with disabilities will undergo yet another transformation, but one that is at least highlighted as one of the more valued federal investments at this time. Details are forthcoming, and need to be monitored closely.
The enhanced support for families comes through the use of fiscal policy and the many proposed Income Tax measures:
- Invest $119 million per year over five years for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy using a Housing First approach.
- Renew the Investment in Affordable Housing, with $253 million per year over five years, to work with provinces and territories to help Canadians in need find and keep affordable housing.
- Introduce a new, temporary First-Time Donor's Super Credit for first-time claimants of the Charitable Donations Tax Credit to encourage all young Canadians to donate to charity.
- Extending on an ongoing basis at $15 million per year the Enabling Accessibility Fund, which supports capital costs of construction and renovations to improve physical accessibility for persons with disabilities, including workplace accommodation.
- Expanding tax relief for home care services under the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax to better meet the health care needs of Canadians.
While many more details are yet to come, for a budge that was expected to send extreme austerity signals, the Conservative 2013 Budget - while certainly a "conservative" budget - is situated consistently along the path of most government budgets this year (regardless of political party), and, specifically, addresses the dire need for employment inclusion of Canadians with disabilities.
Official Government of Canada 2013 Budget documents may be found at www.budget.gc.ca.
2012 Federal Budget
Delivered Hon. Jim Flaherty, PC, MP, Minister of Finance House of Commons - Ottawa
Thursday March 29, 2012
The 2012 federal budget, delivered by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the first budget of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority government, was delivered today with minimal surprises.
Minister Flaherty had suggested in the days leading up the budget that measures would be moderate and modest.
The Budget provides $30 million over three years for the Opportunities Fund, and seeks other enhancements by creating a panel that will consider labour market opportunities for Canadians with disabilities.
A review and set of improvements will be made to the Registered Disability Savings Program, including enhanced federal-provincial harmonization rules, and greater flexibility for investors and recipients.
The Budget proposes to expand the list of health care professionals who can order medical and assistive devices zero-rated under the HST. It will also expand the list of expenses an individual may claim under the Medical Expenses Tax Credit.
Legislation will be introduced to ensure that employees on long-term disability who work in federally regulated workplaces are protected should their employers become insolvent.
We see more than $500 million dollars over two years targeted to the EI front, to help with everything from enhanced information initiatives to the direct enhancement of certain benefits themselves.
Eligibility for Old Age Security rises from 65 to 67. The change will start April 2023, with full implementation by January 2029, and will not affect anyone who is 54 by March 31, 2012. Several other details around the OAS, GIS and CPP/QPP have been announced and are available at: www.budget.gc.ca/2012/plan/pdf/Plan2012-eng.pdf.
The National Research Council, created in 1916, will be renewed with an eye toward business-oriented applications.
An additional $7 million per year will go toward the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s industry-academic partner initiatives.
How charities report to the CRA will see a few changes. The Budget proposes that the CRA enhance its compliance and education activities with respect to political activities conducted by charities. The CRA will also require that charities provide detailed information about political activities, the source of donations for such, and the amount of activity dedicated to political activities (not affecting the work we do, but during an electoral period we must carefully review the new rules once passed).
Several agencies of the Crown will be merged or have their back-office functions significantly reduced, eliminated or harmonized. A preliminary account by Finance officials reveals that the Public Health Agency of Canada is one such target for cost savings. Nearly all Departments are affected through this measure. A total of just shy of 20,000 public service positions will be affected in this area of the Budget.
Finally, the Royal Canadian Mint will stop producing the penny, commencing this fall.
Accessibility Increases Exponentially During 2011 Federal Election
May 9, 2011
Manager, Government Relations & Advocacy
March of Dimes Canada
It’s ironic in some ways. On the one hand we have an election in which voters are presented with policy proposals and election platforms that are more substantive and robust than we’ve seen in many years. For anyone to say that no real policies alternatives were proposed in this election clearly didn’t pay attention. And herein is irony, since, on the other hand, the only things that received much attention in the media and public dialogue were the issues around whether the Conservatives would form a majority or if the Jack Layton "surge" would make history by removing the Liberals from both governing as well as opposition status.
Alas, it has been said time and again by veteran campaigners and pundits that elections are never about policy, but only about issues.
While we dissected the policy planks of each party, finding plenty of positive content in each camp, one issue that we continued to promote and remind candidates about during the 2011 federal election was accessibility – not just for voters with disabilities, but for volunteers with disabilities who want to participate in the campaigns of their local candidates. We have asked this question in every election since the 2006 federal election: Are you inclusive of Canadians with disabilities? Are your campaign offices accessible?
This year’s outreach campaign had a slightly different character than those we have conducted since 2006. MPs have been sensitized to disability issues, at least to some degree in recent years, through Parliament’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the first international treaty of its kind in this century).
Put another way, every Member of Parliament running for re-election this year would have had first-hand experience in learning about and supporting the rights of anyone with a disability. They voted unanimously to the support the UN Convention in the House of Commons. They had better be practicing what they support!
You might recall that approximately 25% of the Toronto election campaign offices we visited in 2006 were completely inaccessible. Fast forward to 2011, when the March of Dimes Campaign Team visited a much larger sample of campaign offices – checking out basic accessibility from the ridings in Burlington through to Mississauga and Brampton, to Toronto, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Pickering, Ajax and Oshawa. We visited every office of each incumbent MP running for re-election around the Greater Toronto Region.
The result? An exponential increase in accessibility. The offices of Liberals, NDP and Conservatives were wheelchair accessible (at least to a minimum degree). Office managers and staff seemed to have considered those voters and potential volunteers with disabilities; they seemed to have embraced a more inclusive method of choosing office space. What a refreshing result.
This is the great news portion of this story. The not-so-great news was that our findings did not show a 100% level of accessibility. One, only one, campaign office was inaccessible to anyone with a physical limitation, an incumbent running for re-election who received our visits in 2006 and was in the House of Commons during the proceedings around the UN treaty.
One out of roughly three dozen offices is a pretty good ratio. Or is it? Is it acceptable to have even one inaccessible campaign office, particularly from an experienced parliamentarian?
Clearly our work is not done, and will continue through the summer months as we head into the Ontario election this fall.
Did the sensitivity of MPs running for re-election and their staff increase as a result of our outreach campaigns? Did it become more inclusive as a result of their exposure to, and experience with, the UN Convention? And the most important question: how can YOU get involved?
First, go to the Elections Ontario website and learn which riding you are in. Learn who your MPP is and the names of the other candidates in your riding – and visit those offices yourself. Remember that Ontario has an Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that received unanimous support from every MPP. As you go about your inquiry, keep the following question in mind: is it acceptable to have even one inaccessible campaign office? Document your findings and email them to us. We’ll be visiting as many ridings as we can, but we’ll need your help from your region of the Province.
Let’s make sure we all continue to make an impact by identifying, eliminating and preventing barriers to the full participation of people with disabilities.