Today, Finance Minister Bill Morneau presented his third federal budget. Titled, Equality, Growth: A Strong Middle Class, it is the latest chapter in the Liberal government’s plan to help and grow the Canadian middle class.
Over the last two years, Canada’s economic growth has been fueled by a stronger middle class and aided with such initiatives as the Middle Class Tax Cut and the Canada Child Benefit. Combined with a resurging economy, these measures have created 600,000 net new jobs since November 2015.
While the budget contained hundreds of items, for Orléans, there were a few measures that deserve particular attention.
Stabilizing the government’s pay administration (Phoenix) is a priority. Canada’s public servants deserve to be paid properly and on time for their vital work on behalf of Canadians. To date, the government has committed $460 million to implement the deeply flawed pay system and resolve its issues. While these problems were baked-in during the development phase prior to October 2015, we are committed to fixing this problem for the long-term. Through Budget 2018, the government proposes an additional investment of $16M over two years to work with public sector unions and technology experts on a way forward to a new pay system. In the interim, we will continue to address the existing pay challenges with an investment of $431.4M over six years which will help to grow the ranks of much needed pay advisors.
One in ten Canadians cannot afford the prescription drugs they need. This means about one million Canadians have to make the tragic choice between essentials such as food and heat and their life-saving medicines. As part of this budget, the government is announcing the creation of an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. This is the first step in what will be a national dialogue with experts, provinces and Canadians at-large on Pharmacare. Following an economic and social assessment of various models, they will report to the Minister of Health on how to move forward on this important topic in 2019.
Providing lifelong financial stability for injured veterans was a promise we ran on. Budget 2018 proposes legislation for the Pension-for-Life plan that includes the choice of tax-free monthly payments for life to recognize pain and suffering caused by a service-related disability up to a maximum monthly amount of $2,650 for those most severely disabled; and income replacement for veterans who are facing barriers returning to work after military service at 90 per cent of their pre-release salary. Totaling, $3.6 billion in new supports, this means a 25-year-old veteran who is no longer able to work due to his or her injuries, will be entitled to $5,800 in monthly support – for life.
Orléans is home to a thriving Franco-Ontarian community. Budget 2018 will strengthen and empower communities like ours by investing $400 million in new funding over 5 years to support the Action Plan for Official Languages 2018-2023. This will include funding for community organizations, cultural, artistic and heritage activities, French-language minority community media, second language training, support for French as a second language teachers, and early learning and child care initiatives for minority official language communities.
Also included in Budget 2018, was an announcement on a new partnership between Archives Canada and the Ottawa Public Library. To accomplish this we provide $73.3 million over six years plus – starting in 2018-2019 – $4 million per year ongoing to support the construction and ongoing operation of a new joint facility. This new building will be an iconic community hub, a single door to the national library and archives, and a world-class public library in Canada’s capital city which will increase citizen participation in the community and improve access to Canada’s history, culture and collective knowledge. It is expected that the new building will be completed by 2023.
“Over the past two years, the Government has invested in Canadians, and in the things that matter most to them. These investments reflected the choice to reject austerity policies and instead invest wisely in strengthening the middle class and growing the economy. With 600,000 new jobs created and a declining debt as a percentage of the economy, it’s a choice that makes sense for the Canadian economy. And thanks to the hard work of Canadians, those early investments are paying off here in Orléans and across Canada.”
-Andrew Leslie, MP for Orléans