Budget 2016

There are expectations we have as people trying to live well in this world: a home, good food, health and happiness for our loved ones, a cherished planet. Something as big and complex as the Federal Budget can sometimes hide the ways that government tries to address these needs. I had high expectations for change: I have heard constituents and people across the country state very clearly what they need in order to have a good life.

In spite of their talk and lofty promises, Liberals missed an opportunity to deliver real change in Budget 2016. A budget is about choices and priorities.  We have now seen that the Liberals still value conservative economic decisions more than simple day-to-day needs of people. The Liberals broke their promise to invest in health care – nothing for homecare after promising $3 billion: our elders deserve respect and generosity. And in spite of a clear promise to restore home mail delivery, the budget doesn’t even mention Canada Post. What can I tell the mail carriers in Val-d’Or that will reassure them of secure jobs and a strengthened public postal system?

The budget failed to live up to promises to Indigenous children by shortchanging  education by $230 million and child welfare by $130million this year alone – and no money for health care, Jordan’s Principle or mental health supports.  For decades our communities have been underfunded, neglected and forgotten; for the sake of our children we cannot wait; the fact is, this budget falls far short of what’s needed to close the gap. Lifting the 2% cap on Indigenous programs and services is a good thing, but I ask myself why only some programs, but not others? I am very disappointed that there is no new money to revitalize Indigenous languages after speaking personally with both the Minister of Indigenous Affairs and the Minister of Canadian Heritage to underscore how important it is to protect our languages now.

I was glad to see money set aside for housing in Nunavik; however it is unfortunately less than a quarter of what Nunavik has told the government it needs for their housing demands. I know that the money for shelters is desperately needed, but it is not nearly enough to help communities build strong relations and future generations. I also know that the Nutrition North program has been severely underfunded and the money included in the budget to expand the program is not nearly enough.

This budget is marked by Liberals backtracking on their promises and missing an opportunity to tackle inequality. I wanted to see money to support post-secondary students, to expand training programs, repair the damages done to the EI program, to help seasonal workers, and to stop and reverse climate change. There is also no money to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, or respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Implementation of these promises made by the Prime Minister during the election campaign is crucial to building a nation-to-nation relationship.

As I said before: a budget is about choices. I don’t feel that a choice was made by the Liberals to help people in a real, meaningful, long-term way.  The NDP is committed to reducing inequality and standing up for the interests of everyday Canadians – people who are working harder than ever but just can’t get ahead. Unfortunately this budget doesn’t live up to these values; there remains much work to do.