For more than two decades, Canadians have been promised a gender-based analysis of the impact federal budgets will have on their lives, but Ottawa has consistently failed to deliver.
But when Finance Minister Bill Morneau stands up in the House of Commons next week to deliver the Trudeau government's second budget, he is expected to also release the first such analysis of that budget. It's a long-promised and overdue step towards true gender equality in this country, and is very welcomed.
Canada's Finance Minister Bill Morneau, March 7, 2017. (Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)
As commendable as this is, the fact is that Canada has been committed to doing this since 1995 when the government of Jean Chrétien signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
As the federal auditor general has pointed out in two audits, Canada has consistently failed to meet these obligations, beyond a few departments and agencies where "the analyses performed were not always complete and that the quality of the analyses was not consistent."
The result is that for 22 years, Canada's federal governments have not properly assessed their own budgets and policies to ensure their decisions help both women and men, and do not further widen gender inequality. The aim should be to reduce it.
The simple fact is that gender inequity will not be addressed in a meaningful way until governments and decision makers are prepared to subject our policies to a rigorous gender-based analysis.
A cut in income taxes benefits men proportionally more than women, because men make more money on average.
The basic idea behind gender-based analysis is to take a deep look at how budget measures affect men and women differently. This goes well beyond highlighting budget measures typically considered more important to women, such as child care or domestic abuse supports, though this is certainly part of it.
As senior economist Armine Yalnizyan wrote recently in Maclean's magazine, "The goal is to identify and reduce inequalities in how men and women are treated by public policy."
Take tax cuts, a perennial policy tool for any government. A cut in income taxes benefits men proportionally more than women, because men make more money on average. Those tax cuts then lead to cuts in social services such as health care, public transit and child care that women tend to rely on more than men.
As Yalnizyan points out, that leads to a "double-whammy" for women because tax cuts hurt them both in their implementation and in the impact they have on other policies.
Yet, tax cuts are just one example. Infrastructure investment, for instance, tends to create more jobs for men (who dominate construction and trades jobs) unless programs are in place to help women enter those fields, as well as programs such as child care to help women enter and stay in the workforce.
In applying a gender lens, let's also be clear that funding affordable child care, along with instituting a $15 living minimum wage, would significantly help women and families build better lives.
(Photo: Hero Images via Getty Images)
Morneau's own Advisory Council on Economic Growth has said "families with young children, and in particular low-income families, should have reasonable access to a sufficient supply of affordable, high-quality and convenient child care." I couldn't agree more with the statement, but to date we have not seen this issue translated into action.
The report also pointed out that in Quebec, which has a much more universal child care program than the rest of Canada, the workforce participation rate of women with children is 93 per cent, compared with 86 per cent in the rest of Canada.Raising the rest of Canada to Quebec's level could add $13 billion to Canada's GDP by helping more women join the workforce and contributing dollars and cents to the economy, the report says.
For the sake of all Canadians, that can only be a good thing.
This year marks the first real attempt at a gender-based analysis for a federal budget, and is expected to be a supplement to the budget, released simultaneously.
While it may fall somewhat short of the ideals promised in 1995 and the expectations of many today, it is a welcomed first step.
I'll be taking as close a look at this supplement, as will I to the budget itself. By setting out where the budget misses the mark on furthering gender equity, the analysis will help guide all of us -- and the federal government in particular -- as we take the needed steps to reduce gender inequity in our society.
For the sake of all Canadians, that can only be a good thing.
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The Liberal government delivered its maiden budget Tuesday, March 22. A deficit of $29.4 billion in 2016-17, nearly three times the $10 billion promised during the fall election campaign, and a projected deficit of $17.7 billion in 2019-20 rather than the balanced budget that was promised in October. (Source: The Canadian Press)
One of the earmarks of the budget is a commitment to spending on aboriginal issues. This includes: - $2.6 billion over five years for primary and secondary education on First Nations reserves, including language and cultural programs, plus $969.4 million over five years for education infrastructure. - $1.2 billion over five years for social infrastructure for Aboriginal Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and northern communities. - $10.4 million over three years for new women's shelters in First Nations communities, and $33.6 million over five years and $8.3 million ongoing for support services. - $40 million over two years for the inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The Liberals will be changing the structure of Canada's child benefits, ending income splitting and other tax credits for families and parents. This means: - $10 billion more over two years for a new Canada child benefit, absorbing and replacing both the Canada child tax benefit and the universal child care benefit. Targeted to low and middle-income families, the government says the new benefit provides an average increase of nearly $2,300 in 2016-17. - An end to income splitting for couples with children, the children's fitness tax credit and the children's arts tax credit. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The government will spend $2.5 billion over two years on a suite of changes, including reducing the required work experience for new entrants and re-entrants; halving the two-week waiting period; extending a pilot project to allow claimants to work while collecting benefits; simplifying job-search requirements; and extending the benefit eligibility window in specific regions with a higher unemployment rate. (Source: The Canadian Press)
- $5.6 billion more in benefits to veterans and their families over five years, including a disability award that increases to $360,000, retroactive to 2006, and an earnings loss benefit to injured vets of 90 per cent of pre-release salary. The government is also re-opening nine veterans' service offices across the country and adding a 10th. - Planned National Defence purchases worth $3.7 billion — ships, planes and vehicles — are being deferred indefinitely. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
Planned National Defence purchases worth $3.7 billion — ships, planes and vehicles — are being deferred indefinitely. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The budget includes $3.4 billion over five years to increase the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for single seniors, and restore the old age security eligibility age to 65 from 67. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The Liberals broke a major campaign promise to cut the small business tax rate. Instead, the rate will remain at the current 10.5 per cent on the first $500,000 of active business income. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The Liberals will spend $1.53 billion over five years to increase Canada student grants to $3,000 from $2,000 for low-income students, to $1,200 from $800 for middle-income students and to $1,800 from $1,200 for part-time students. $2 billion over three years is also earmarked for a new strategic investment fund for infrastructure improvements at colleges and universities, in partnership with provinces and territories.
The Liberals' green infrastructure plan includes: - $2.2 billion over five years in water and wastewater treatment and waste management - $2 billion over two years for a low-carbon economy fund - Over $1 billion over four years to support future clean technology investments - $345.3 million over five years to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada and the National Research Council to take action to address air pollution. (Source: The Canadian Press)
The Liberals will spend $500,000 to help understand the role of foreign homebuyers in the country's housing market. The government says comprehensive and reliable data on the number of homes sold to foreign buyers does not exist right now. Read more here. (Source: The Canadian Press)
The marquee Liberal commitment to Syrian refugee resettlement could end up costing taxpayers close to $1 billion. The budget provided an additional $245 million over five years to bring in the remaining 10,000 people needed to meet the Liberal promise to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
$142.3 million over five years will be spent to add new national parks and improve access during the 150th anniversary of Confederation. (Source: The Canadian Press
The Grits will provide up to $178 million over two years for the provinces for urgent affordable housing needs. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The budget earmarks $38.5 million over two years to strengthen and modernize Canada's food safety system. (Source: The Canadian Press)
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