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March 31, 2016

Council of Canadians campaigners comment on Trudeau' Budget: Federal budget falls short on promises


http://bit.ly/1q6bV0T
Emma Lui, Michael Butler, Andrea Harden-Donahue

The Council of Canadians is giving mixed reviews to the federal budget released earlier this week.
Vancouver-based water campaigner Emma Lui writes, "Budget 2016 allocates $2.24 billion over the next five years for improving on reserve water and wastewater infrastructure and waste management. $141.7 million will go to improving the monitoring and testing of on reserve community drinking water over the next five years. Averaged out, that’s $448 million which is close to the $470 million that the Alternative Federal Budget and Assembly of First Nations have called for. 

But like some of the funding in the budget, it is back-end loaded.  In year one, the government will spend $296 million and in year two, $322 million. Compared to Harper’s annual $165 million this is a definite improvement. But it still falls short of what was called for in the Alternative Federal Budget. The National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems commissioned by the Harper government called for $1.2 billion to have then-Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada meet its own protocols."

For further commentary from Emma on the budget in relation to municipal water and wastewater infrastructure, ocean and freshwater science and research, restoring freshwater protections, Great Lakes protection, please see her Council of Canadians lukewarm on water funding in federal budget blog.

Toronto-based health care campaign Michael Butler notes, "Reading through the short health section in the budget documents, the big issues and the promises the Liberals had made regarding home care and palliative care, the Canadian Health Transfer, the Health Accord and so on, have been put off until another day. There is no discussion in the budget of the Premiers unanimous calls for the federal government to cover 25% of provincial health costs (at the start of medicare this was an equal 50/50 arrangement). Post budget analysis shows that despite a Liberal campaign promise to immediately invest new money in home care services to the tune of $3 billion over four years, Finance Minister Bill Morneau confirmed, 'Tuesday the government will not be making new investments in home care, indicating the government will work with provinces and territories on the issue instead.'"

Michael highlights, "Unfortunately, looking at the appendix tables it becomes clear that the government’s budget projections maintain the Harper government’s reduction in health care transfers to the provinces relative to the GDP. Counter intuitively the budget states, 'Starting in 2017–18, the Canadian Health Transfer will grow in line with a three-year moving average of nominal GDP growth, with funding guaranteed to increase by at least 3.0 per cent per year.' So as opposed to a fixed 6% escalator which was included in the last health accord, health transfers to the provinces will be lower when the economy is doing worse (i.e. the time when people need health care the most)."

For additional analysis from Michael, please see his Budget 2016: still waiting for the health care litmus test blog.
And Ottawa-based energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue writes, "The Council of Canadians, alongside many voices, has been calling for an elimination of subsidies to the fossil fuel sector for years. Canada publicly promised to phase out these subsidies along with other G20 nations in 2009. In its 2015 report, Oil Change International and Overseas Development Institute found Canada provides $1.8 billion CAD in federal subsidies yearly to fossil fuel producers. Further, Export Development Canada, owned by our government, provides as much as $6 billion yearly to energy producers. Budget 2016 was a lost opportunity to redirect funds from climate change causing industries to climate solutions. There was nothing in the budget cutting back these significant subsidies."
Andrea highlights, "The budget also did not remove a capital cost allowance for controversial liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects that have the potential to balloon BC’s climate pollution, along with raising other serious environmental and social concerns."
For further commentary from Andrea on the budget in relation to funding for environmental assessments, green infrastructure investments, and more, please see her Budget 2016 on Pipelines, Green Infrastructure Spending and Climate blog.
For commentary on the federal budget from allies including Unifor, CUPE, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, please click here.

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