Budget 2018—Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class
Over the last two and a half years, Canada’s economic growth has been fuelled by a stronger middle class. To build on this progress, we recently tabled Budget 2018, which supports our people-centred approach to provide greater prosperity and growth that benefits everyone. Guided by a new Gender Results Framework, Budget 2018 continues to put the needs of Canadians first and proposes measures to ensure that every Canadian has a real and fair chance at success.
I am happy to highlight some of the important measures connected to my department—many of which are consistent with what I heard through my extensive consultations with Canadians and stakeholders.
Supporting equal parenting
To support greater gender equality in the home and in the workplace, the Budget proposes a new Employment Insurance parental sharing benefit to give parents more choice by providing an additional five weeks of EI parental benefits when both parents agree to share parental leave. This “use it or lose it” incentive encourages a second parent in two-parent families to share more equally in the work of raising their children. This will allow greater flexibility for new moms to return to work sooner, if they so choose. It also allows the dad or other parent more time to bond with their child, feel more confident in their ability to meet their needs and ultimately set up patterns of more equal parenting that will last a lifetime. The parental sharing benefit is part of the Government’s commitment to make the Employment Insurance system more flexible to reflect the needs of people who need it.
Canada Workers Benefit
Starting in 2019 the new Canada Workers Benefit (CWB) will put more money in the pockets of low-income workers than the Working Income Tax Benefit that it replaces. The CWB will increase the maximum benefits and increase the income level at which the benefit is phased out. As a result, a low-income worker earning $15,000 would receive up to almost $500 more from the CWB in 2019 than in 2018 to invest in the things that are important to them. By allowing more low-income workers to get more, the CWB will deliver real help to more than 2 million Canadians who are working hard to join the middle class—raising around 70,000 workers out of poverty by 2020 and encouraging more Canadians to join or stay in the labour market.
Also, starting in 2019, the Government will make it easier for people to access the CWB. Everyone who can benefit from the new CWB will receive it automatically. As a result, an estimated 300,000 additional low-income workers will receive the new CWB for the 2019 tax year.
Improving access to the Canada Child Benefit
As announced in the 2017 Fall Economic Statement, we are strengthening the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) to make sure it keeps up with the rising cost of living, starting in July 2018. The CCB is particularly beneficial to families led by single mothers. Last year, single mothers earning less than $60,000 a year received, on average, about $9,000 in tax-free CCB benefits.
Our government recognizes that Indigenous communities face distinct barriers to accessing federal benefits such as the CCB. Budget 2018 proposes measures to expand outreach efforts to all on-reserve, remote and northern Indigenous communities, and will pilot outreach projects for urban Indigenous communities, ensuring Indigenous people have better access to the CCB and the other federal social benefits to which they are entitled.
Rental Construction Housing Initiative
A growing number of Canadians are finding it difficult to find a safe and affordable place to live. Many of our cities lack affordable rental housing, and growing populations and the rising cost of home ownership make it more challenging to find—and afford—a good place to live.
To encourage a stable supply of affordable rental housing across the country, the Budget proposes to increase the amount of loans provided by the Rental Construction Financing initiative by 50%. This new funding will support projects that address the needs for modest- and middle-income households struggling in expensive housing markets.
Funding for the Rental Construction Financing initiative will encourage the construction of more than 14,000 new rental housing units.
Employment Insurance Call Centre Accessibility
EI call centres play a key role in delivering EI benefits, allowing Canadians to obtain information and assistance from agents who know the EI program well. Building on investments of $73 million over two years announced in Budget 2016, the Budget proposes to provide an additional $127.7 million over three years, starting in 2018–19, to further improve accessibility and ensure Canadians receive timely and accurate information and assistance with EI benefits. It is important to be able to count on client service that meets the needs of citizens.
By building on the Government’s plan to invest in the middle class, Budget 2018 takes significant steps to ensure everyone has the opportunity to fully contribute to the development of our society and to benefit from an to economic growth that works for all Canadians.