The first federal budget in two years was released on April 19. The budget covered many sectors that were and continue to be greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the affected sectors include tourism, health care and cutting childcare costs which has been promised by the liberals for a long time.
Many of those affected sectors have since had time to digest what the budget meant for them.
A press release issued on April 22 stated that Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh and Grand Council Treaty 3 are eagerly reviewing the 2021 Federal Budget.
Kavanaugh said the pandemic has made many issues they face worse, from health to education and justice.
“Addressing these issues is difficult when we are forced to deal with antiquated funding relationships, policies, and methodologies with both levels of government,” Kavanaugh said in the press release. “I am optimistic that this pandemic has made it clear to governments that we must reassess many of the policies and procedures that we work within in order to allow us to rebuild from this pandemic in a way that benefits everyone.”
Additionally, the statement said that while the figures seem impressive at first glance, it has become apparent that the effects on the ground for Treaty 3 communities depend heavily on how national allocations will be made.
“While many of the investments made by this budget to First Nation health, education, and justice systems are welcome news, the investment in economic development appears comparatively low,” added Kavanaugh. “I have heard time and time again that our people want to be a part of our local, national, and international economy. Canada has a great opportunity in the million Indigenous people that are willing and eager to be a part of the economic recovery if they are given the tools to join it.”
Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, also had mixed emotions about the budget.
The press release stated that while unions are applauding significant investments such as $30 billion in early learning and childcare funding, $2.5 billion in skills and training development and a $15 federal minimum wage, they also say the government missed an opportunity to implement a universal, single-payer pharmacare program in Canada.
“According to the federal government’s own Advisory Council on pharmacare, a universal plan would reduce drug prices, save billions for families and businesses, and provide vital medicines to millions of Canadians who cannot afford to fill their prescriptions,” the release added.
Peter Bethlenfalvy, Ontario’s Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board, issued a statement on April 19 in response to the federal budget saying that Ontario has delivered real, meaningful support for people and employers.
However, Bethlenfalvy went on to add that they are disappointed to see there was no action announced in stricter border measures to limit the introduction and spread of COVID variants, vaccine supply and improvements to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.
“In the face of weak border measures and limited vaccine supply, Ontario is doing what’s necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. But the provinces can’t beat this third wave alone,” Bethlenfalvy said in the release. “We need the federal government to do its part.”
Tourism has been one of the hardest hit sectors, especially in northern Ontario as many businesses rely on American tourists to keep their business alive.
Beth Potter, president & CEO of Tourism Industry Association of Canada, stated in a press release that they were pleased to see the tourism sector recognized in the budget.
The Federal Budget commits a $1-billion package of support for the tourism sector over three years including supporting community and major events, support for Destination Canada, and establishing a Tourism Relief Fund.
Potter adds that the fight is far from over and they will continue advocating and concentrating on labour challenges, border reopening and consumer confidence.
Veterans’ mental health was also focussed on in the budget.
Dominion President, Thomas D. Irvine, CD. said in a press release that he was surprised at the funding allotted.
“Given the needs arising due to the pandemic, we were not expecting this much welcome investment in our Veteran community and we are very happy to see our veterans have not been forgotten,” Irvine said. “We look forward to working collaboratively with the federal government and all partners to provide support wherever we can.”
The budget includes $150 million in immediate funding to Veterans Affairs Canada for a new program, $29 million to allow Veterans Affairs Canada to retain personnel who are working to combat the current massive backlog of benefit applications, something the legion helps veterans complete. And $15 million over three years for Veterans Affairs Canada to expand and enhance this fund.
Irvine stated that the legion has been pushing for improvements in all of these areas.