The Canadian Federal Budget for 2018 was officially released this week. Here are some of the top takeaways …
PAID PATERNAL LEAVE
A new five-week “use it or lose it” parental leave for new parents who did not give birth will be a change to the current system. The government is proposing $1.2-billion over five years to create the program which is to be an incentive for new fathers to take parental leave.
The Employment Insurance Parental Sharing Benefit would increase EI parental leave to a maximum of 40 weeks in cases where the second parent agrees to take at least five weeks off. The benefit covers 55 per cent of the second parent’s income for as much as 12 months.
In cases where families have decided to go for the extended parental leave of 18 months, the second parent would be able to take as much as eight weeks of additional parental leave, paid out at 33 per cent of their income. The benefit would also be offered to adoptive and same-sex couples and will start June, 2019.
WOMEN AT WORK
The plan focuses on investing in women who want to work and will put $1.4 billion over the next three years to aid female entrepreneurs through the Business Development Bank of Canada.
It acknowledges that women face barriers that men don’t when starting businesses like limited access to “capital, supply chains and export programs” and looks to level the playing field somewhat by offering additional financial boosts.
Another point is the introduction of pay equity legislation for women employed in the government and in federally-regulated sectors.
Also, the budget introduces strategies to reduce gender-based harassment and violence. It specifically references the Me Too and Time’s Up movements’and their impacts on new policies and focuses on a range of gender-specific abuses in the workplace, by one’s partner and against Indigenous women.
It also commits to an “increased accountability and responsiveness from the Canadian criminal justice system” in these cases.
National pharmacare will be reviewed by a council that will look at its overall feasability and could represent significant savings for both patients and the government.
A 2016 Parliamentary Budget Office analysis estimated that of the $28.5-billion spent on prescription drugs in 2015, $24.6-billion would be eligible for coverage under a national pharmacare program and that a true national prescription drug program would cost $20.2-billion. Basically this means that a national pharmacare system could represent a savings of about $4.2-billion annually, mostly because governments would have a stronger position in price negotiations.
The budget commits $3.8-billion more over the next five years to support science. A big part of this will be aimed at stepping up funding in physical and life sciences, social sciences and health for fundamental research at universities and other institutions.
By 2023, scientists will have roughly half a billion more for fundamental research than they do today. This represents the biggest increase to fundamental science ever by the government to the tune of about 25 per cent.
The 2018 budget has allocated $508-million, spread out until 2022-23. The funds will be used primarily by the Communications Security Establishment to create a new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, as well as a National Cybercrime Coordination Unit for the RCMP.
With legalization of cannabis set for late summer, Ottawa is spending another $62.5-million on public education campaigns on the dangers of drug use and $10-million on research, including assessing the impact of legalization on mental health.
WHAT ELSE …
Critics point to the $18.1 billion dollar deficit (which Liberals had promised to lower at some point during their term) and the fact that Canada doesn’t seem to be taking precautions to remain competitive in business with the U.S.
There are notably no indications of NAFTA uncertainty and no tax breaks for businesses to the degree the United States passed last year. While there was great controversy over the American tax bill last fall, the takeaway for Canada is that their drastic tax cuts for businesses give American companies a competitive edge over their Canadian counterparts.
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