OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said science, gender equality and preparing Canadians for the jobs of the future will be key themes in Tuesday’s federal budget. Here are some more details on what it is expected to contain.
The federal budget is expected to include a five-week, “use-it-or-lose-it” incentive for new fathers to take parental leave and share the responsibilities of raising their baby. The goal is to give parents a greater incentive to share child-rearing responsibilities so that new mothers can more easily return to the workforce. Quebec already has a policy with a paid, five-week leave for fathers that covers up to 70 per cent of their income.
The budget is also expected to include a major financial boost to basic scientific research across Canada, which would address some of the concerns outlined last year in a national review of the state of fundamental science. That review recommended phasing in $1.3 billion more for researchers, scholarships and facilities over four years. The research community also thinks the budget could include new efforts to support young and Indigenous researchers, as well as help advance the role of women in science.
Since the Liberal government feels it has checked climate-change financing off its long environmental to-do list, Ottawa is expected to shift its funding focus to other international obligations on the environment, such as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The 2010 agreement says Canada must protect at least 17 per cent of its terrestrial areas, including inland waters, plus at least 10 per cent of its oceans by 2020.
The government is expected to detail the cost of its long-held promise to achieve proactive pay equity in Canada this year. The exact figure remains to be seen, but the price tag on closing the gender wage gap in the public service and federally regulated workplaces, which together employ nearly 1.2 million people, will likely be significant.
The budget could include an effort to increase procurement opportunities for female entrepreneurs, following the recommendation of the Canada-U.S. women-in-business group created by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump. The government has already been taking concrete steps toward adjusting procurement practices to increase the diversity of bidders. Groups promoting social procurement have seen more and more encouraging signs that additional commitments are on the way.
STILL IN THE RED
The Liberals blew through their 2015 campaign promise to keep the annual deficit below $10 billion in their first federal budget, and their ability to stick by their commitment to return to balance by 2019 remains in doubt. The latest federal forecast, released last October, projected a $14.3-billion deficit for 2019-20 and doubts persist that Tuesday’s budget will show a revised timeline for getting back to black.
The Liberals have also put this budget through a gender-based analysis, which involves thinking about how a certain measure might affect men and women, or boys and girls, in a different ways, while accounting for other intersecting factors such as income, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation.
The budget is also expected to devote $50 million over five years to support local journalism in underserved communities across Canada, according to media reports. The Liberal government could also announce a plan to look at new business models that could allow charitable organizations to support non-profit journalism.
WORKING INCOME TAX BENEFIT
The budget is expected to detail how the government will deliver on its commitment to add $500 million more to the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB), beginning next year. The benefit allows people typically earning the minimum wage or less to receive more income by subsidizing their wages with a tax credit.
HOUSING IN INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES
The budget is also expected to devote big money to tackle the acute housing shortage in Indigenous communities, where homes are often overcrowded and in serious need of repairs. The Liberals have promised unique housing strategies for Inuit, Metis and First Nations communities alongside the 10-year, $225-million plan announced last year to fund groups that help house Indigenous Peoples living off-reserve.
There are high expectations from government and industry insiders that the budget will include large investments to help bolster Canadian cybersecurity defences at a time of heightened online threats around the world. The budget is set to fund a multi-departmental effort to strengthen the ability to protect and respond in the event of an attack.
The budget is expected to include almost $80 million over five years to build and operate a federal computer system aimed at ending no-fly list mismatches that have seen many innocent travellers — including dozens of children — endure anxious airport delays.
— With files from Andy Blatchford, Jordan Press, Jim Bronskill and Stephanie Levitz
— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter
Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press