This week’s federal budget includes new measures to promote gender equality, a significant boost in research funding and the beginnings of a pharmacare program — but not an end to deficit spending for the foreseeable future.
The Trudeau government tabled its third budget yesterday, titled “Equality + Growth.” The federal finances are largely what was expected, with the government projecting an $18.1-billion deficit for the coming fiscal year, with no timeline for returning to a surplus. The government prefers to focus on the debt-to-GDP ratio, which is projected to continue to decrease to 28.4 per cent in 2022-23, from 30.4 per cent now.
The fiscal plan puts women front and centre. That includes a centerpiece of pay equity legislation, expected in the fall, but no dollar amount for implementing the law once it’s in place. The budget also outlines new parental leave benefits to encourage a second parent — often a father — to take an extra five weeks off, though the measure is expected to be revenue neutral.
The budget also pours roughly half a billion dollars more into research funding, which amounts to the largest increase to fundamental science ever. But it’s still nowhere near what was recommended last year by independent review into science funding, which called for an extra $1.3-billion.
Former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins will chair an advisory council to study the prospect of a national pharmacare program. A 2016 Parliamentary Budget Office analysis concluded a national pharmacare program would actually save billions of dollars a year.
For more on what’s in the budget, read our explainer outlining 12 things you need to know.
David Parkinson (The Globe and Mail) on deficits: “The boat for a return to a balanced budget in Ottawa has sailed. This government has no realistic route to get there – and frankly, it’s not too worried about it. This budget cements that.” (for subscribers)
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on a Liberal Orange Wave: “It’s the NDP platform on a Liberal budget. Finance Minister Bill Morneau might as well have cherry-picked rubrics from the New Democrats’ policy book, changed the wording and squeezed them into the few billions that could be spent without blowing up last year’s deficit projections. In fact, that’s pretty much what he did.” (for subscribers)
Linda Nazareth (The Globe and Mail) on gender: “Looking at the budget through economist-eyes shows that the thing that most threatens the economic health of women is the same thing that threatens men: There is red ink as far as the eye can see.”
André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on pharmacare: “Dr. Hoskins has his work cut out for him because the “path forward on pharmacare that puts Canadians first” that he is supposed to find is littered with financial and political land mines.”
Rob Carrick (The Globe and Mail) on financial security: “It might be the blandest of the 25 or so budgets I have covered from the personal finance and business side. But the government has announced a couple of measures to help seniors worry a bit less about money, as well as a revamped tax break to help low-income workers.”
Globe and Mail Editorial Board on the elephant not in the room: “Mr. Morneau is walking a fine line. He is right to note the irony that the loudest yelps for balancing the federal budget have come from some of the same people who are calling for corporate-tax cuts. Still, the fact is that the government is doing neither. Given the economic turbulence coming out of Washington, that’s irresponsible.”
Chantal Hebert (Toronto Star) on 2019: “All governments live by a clock. It typically starts ticking loudly in the third year of a majority mandate, when there is still time to put in place the structural elements of a re-election platform. The next-to-last Liberal budget of the current Parliament begins to lift the veil on the ruling party’s pre-election mindset.”
Susan Delacourt (iPolitics) on 2017: “Much of Budget 2018, in fact, can be seen as a look-back on lessons learned after a difficult, political year…