Kenora MP, NAN Grand Chief, Sioux Lookout Mayor talk Budget 2018
Tim Brody - Associate Editor
The Government of Canada rolled out Budget 2018 on February 27, placing a strong emphasis on gender equality and growth for the future.
“This is very much a gender equality budget that equals growth and a stronger middle class,” stated Kenora MP Bob Nault.
“This government has done a significant amount of research on how to build a more productive economy and one of the easiest ways that we see is going to be getting more women in the workforce. How we do that is again, making sure that (women have) the tools that women need, so they can be in the workforce, and the abilities to deal with childcare, deal with parenting, support from the Government of Canada is essential.”
Nault continued, “That’s one of the larger themes. Of course our other big theme is our continued support for Indigenous communities.
“It’s pretty obvious for anyone who lives in the north and the northwest the Aboriginal people are a big part of our population and so this budget builds on significant investments of close to $12 billion in the past two budgets… to make sure that we not only play catch up, but get caught up and have First Nation communities in the same situation as other communities in the north and across the country.”
Finance Minister Bill Morneau highlighted advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in his budget “by helping to close the gap between the quality of life of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, providing greater support to keep First Nations children safe and supported within their communities, accelerating progress on clean drinking water, housing, and employment, and supporting recognition of rights and self-determination.”
Nault said the government will be investing another $100 million in rural broadband, adding he will continue to send the message that government has a lot of work to do in developing broadband in northern Ontario and in rural Canada generally.
“The extension of the mineral exploration tax credit for an additional year is again a signal that mining is important to us as a government and obviously very important for me because it’s our bread and butter throughout the northwest,” Nault added.
Nault noted the Government of Canada is also increasing the Canada Summer Jobs Program by another $450 million over five years with the objective of getting more young people into the workforce.
Nault further highlighted, “A new program, which is $1.2 billion over five years for what we call the EI Parental Sharing Benefit. It’s a program, frankly, that we’ve found works very well in Quebec and it’s intended to support greater gender equality in the home.
“It’s basically one of those programs that will be another tool to help women get back in the workforce faster by allowing the second parent some extra time at home so women can get in the workforce quicker if they so choose.
“Of course as you know, we’re also in a federal jurisdiction regulated workplace going to bring in legislation on pay equity… in Sioux Lookout I think everyone knows we have a lot of federal employees. So pay equity for federal employees in the Sioux Lookout area in particular is welcome news.”
Nault added, “We’re putting $80 million in 2018 and $150 million more in 2019-20 for seasonal, unemployed workers because in the construction trades, in the tourism industry, in our region in particular, there is that seasonal worker component and we think we need to have programs in place that can help them in particular when their EI runs out.”
Nault said the Government of Canada is also investing another $28 million over five years in FedNor.
“Last year’s budget we increased it by $25 million. This year by another $28 million and $6 million of that is allocated specifically to support women entrepreneurs,” Nault noted.
“Those are good stories for the north and have direct impact,” he said.
“The conversation about infrastructure, seniors, was not as prominent in this budget because of previous budgets, but I’m told this spring we will hopefully have an agreement for the next year for infrastructure between the Province of Ontario and ourselves, so we’ll start to see some more movement on the major infrastructure initiatives because they’ve been slow to roll out… I’m hoping we can start articulating what we do for seniors and subsidizing housing and housing for independent living and things like that because I think that’s the next big phase of infrastructure development that we all want to see,” Nault concluded.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said the Government of Canada has taken a meaningful step toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples with several significant funding commitments in Budget 2018.
“I am pleased with several aspects of this budget, especially the federal government’s long awaited commitment to support Indigenous children in the child welfare system. We are disappointed that no new significant investments were made for housing, and specific details are needed on many of these allocations, but Budget 2018 contains significant investments to improve the well-being of our people and communities,” Fiddler said.
Of particular interest, NAN noted in a press release it is encouraged by the following commitments: $235 million for health transformation, with a focus on supporting models of self-determination, part of Canada’s commitment under the Weeneebayko Area Health Integration Framework Agreement to continue the process of devolution of health service delivery across NAN territory. This includes a significant contribution for a new hospital on the James Bay coast serving the Mushkegowuk communities; $1.4 billion (over five years) for Indigenous child welfare to keep families together and to focus on prevention initiatives; $248.6 million (over three years) to support access to mental health and emotional support services for Indian Residential School survivors and their families; $5 million to support the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund and to advance reconciliation initiatives; promotion of equal access to training and jobs for Indigenous women.
“Budget 2018 is people-focused, and provides much-needed support for our women, youth, and survivors of the Indian Residential School system. We look forward to working with our federal Treaty partner to turn these commitments into action,” Fiddler stated.
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance commented on Budget 2018. “As widely reported the 2018 federal budget has significant spending commitments related to closing the gender gap and on science, technology, skills development, and cybersecurity. Municipal associations are generally commenting that there is considerably less for local governments than the previous budget, but there are some items of interest to our municipality.
“The budget has been identified to enable 14,000 new rental and modest-middle income housing units – across the country. Significant dollars are also committed to support housing construction in First Nations. Housing construction on First Nations will help address a serious backlog and also can help relieve pressure on housing in near-by municipalities such as Sioux Lookout.”
Lawrance further stated, “In the budget the federal government has signalled the intent that a significant portion of the 75 per cent of federal cannabis taxation revenue flowing to the provinces will go to municipalities to address costs related to cannabis legalization.
“The budget has also been identified to help address the opioids crisis which impacts both municipalities and First Nations.”
Lawrance noted that funding has been identified in the budget to help close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in areas such as health, culture, employment, and housing.
“This will be beneficial in First Nations and should have spin-off benefits in our municipality,” he said.
“The budget also provides funding for continued efforts to achieve a long-term softwood lumber agreement which is important to our area. The gender based measures will be as beneficial here as anywhere and it is hoped they can achieve some meaningful movement to gender equality,” he concluded.