The Council of Canadians had a first look at Budget 2018 tabled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau on February 27 and has these initial observations.
1. $0 for pharmacare
"There's a pledge for a new national pharmacare program -- but the budget says nothing about what that might cost. Eric Hoskins, who resigned as Ontario's health minister Monday, was officially named today as the chair of a new council that will hold nationwide consultations on how to proceed with a national program." - CBC
After years of study and clear evidence that pharmacare would both save lives and billions of dollars, we are disappointed that the government decided to pursue consultations rather than taking immediate action to implement pharmacare. The advisory council's report isn't expected until the spring of 2019, just prior to the October 2019 federal election.
2. $0 for Trans-Pacific Partnership compensation
"[Ontario Finance Minister Charles] Sousa said he was disappointed there weren't more transition measures to help Ontario businesses affected by the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with Asian nations." - Toronto Star
We are opposed to the Trudeau government's so-called "comprehensive and progressive" Trans-Pacific Partnership, but are mindful that earlier this week the Ontario government requested the Trudeau government provide $1.26 billion for the province's auto sector and $1.4 billion for agricultural producers to offset harm done by the agreement.
3. $6.8 million over six years for human rights ombudsperson
"The government said Tuesday the role would ultimately be funded through Public Services Canada's existing budget, but few details were immediately available. The budget documents said that the ombudsperson's office would receive $6.8 million over six years, including money for the previous 2017/2018 fiscal year." - National Observer
We are deeply disappointed at the small amount of money allocated to this newly announced position that is to investigate allegations of abuse abroad by Canadian corporations. We had hoped that the position would be well-resourced both financially and with the necessary expertise and staff levels so as to be able to respond effectively and in a timely way to complaints.
4. $75 million over five years for trade with China
"The Government proposes to provide up to $75 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, with $11.8 million per year thereafter, to Global Affairs Canada to establish a stronger Canadian diplomatic and trade support presence in China and Asia. This includes bolstering the number of Canadian diplomats and trade commissioners on the ground in China as well as new initiatives to promote Canada's trade with China and other Asian markets." - Budget 2018
We take this as another signal the Trudeau government is committed to pursuing eventual Canada-China free trade agreement talks.
5. $90.6 million over five years to address offshore tax evasion
"The federal government did attach a price tag to its plan for going after those who skip out on, or use offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes: $90.6 million over five years. Morneau said they expect to recover $5 in revenue for every dollar spent to 'crack down on tax cheats and offshore tax havens.'" - National Observer
This appears to be a modest expenditure given Canadians for Tax Fairness estimates that federal and provincial governments lose $7.8 billion a year in tax revenue due to offshore tax evasion. The number could be as high as $20 billion a year in lost revenue.
6. $172.6 million more over three years for clean drinking water
"The Trudeau government is also under pressure to fulfill a promise to end all water advisories in First Nations by 2021. The 2018 federal budget sets aside about $172.6 million in new funding for clean drinking water; most of the money is set to flow over the next two years. The bulk of this funding -- $102 million -- is slated for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, with $50 million earmarked for the following year. This comes in addition to $1.8 billion initially set aside in the 2016 budget for First Nations water infrastructure." - CBC
An additional $57.5 million a year for three years is not sufficient funding to end boil water advisories in First Nations as promised in the last election.
7. $600 million for the G7 summit
"Canadians will pay nearly $600 million for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to host the G7 summit in June, the bulk of which will be spread over budgets this year and next, and will be spread across a range of departments. The biggest chunk of change will be spent by the RCMP, with nearly $300 million budgeted for the national police force's role -- and overtime -- in keeping the world leaders secure." - Toronto Star
This is an outrageous sum for the two-day summit that will take place June 8-9. This money would be much better spent added on to the insufficient spending currently allocated for clean drinking water for First Nations across this country.
8. $1.3 billion over five years for land, water and species at risk
"The new budget proposes $1.3 billion over five years to protect land, water, and species at risk." - National Observer
This is less funding than had been expected ($1.4 billion over three years) and we are concerned that the Trudeau government continues to endanger land, water and species at risk by championing the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan pipeline that crosses more than 1300 waterways to fill hundreds of tankers on the Pacific Ocean with bitumen each year and approving BP to conduct oil and gas exploration in the deep ocean waters off the coast of Nova Scotia.
9. About $3.3 billion for fossil fuel subsidies
"The Paris target of holding global average temperature at no more than 1.5 degrees C above Industrial Revolution levels is a fundamental goal that should involve a whole-of-government approach. Yet Budget 2018 does not touch subsidies to fossil fuels in the oil patch and for fracked natural gas." - Green Party leader Elizabeth May
While the government is spending $600 million on a two-day G7 summit, it has failed to meet its October 2015 election pledge to "fulfill our G20 commitment [made in September 2009] and phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the medium-term."
We will be providing more commentary in the coming days.
Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO
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