Canada’s federal budget was released on Tuesday. The plan for the next five years is to run at a deficit while investing in infrastructure and the economy, and to set things right in a number of areas that were deeply cut by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Despite the fact that many ordinary Canadians will benefit from things like the increased family benefits, shorter wait times for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, and returning the age for Old Age Security benefits to 65 (it had been raised to 67) there are still many people who feel this first budget for Prime Minister Trudeau doesn’t pass muster.
Not Enough Funds for Aboriginal Employment
One of the criticisms levelled this week is that funds allocated for Canada’s Indigenous peoples are not enough. More specifically, the Fraser Institute points out that of the $8.6 billion allocated for Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, only 0.2% ($15 million) will go to skills and employment training. With a very young Indigenous population (median age 28, compared with 41 for the rest of Canadians) and unemployment rates of 20% – 40% in areas hit by the decline of the oil and gas industry – it does seem that a more significant investment in skills training and job creation is required.
$96M for “Engaging”?
And yes, it really does look bad when we see that $96 million has been allotted for the nebulous purpose of “engaging.” (The exact quote is the money will “support the capacity of Aboriginal Representative Organizations to engage with the government.”) OK, I get that the purpose is supposed to be healing some of the past wounds and ensuring that the voices of Canada’s First Peoples are heard. But does it really have to cost that much? And is it really necessary to earmark separate funds for this kind of dialogue, when consultations with Aboriginal communities are mentioned several other times in conjunction with such topics as education and housing?
There may be a legitimate reason for setting the funds aside this way, but the text of the budget sure doesn’t make that clear to this average Canadian reader. And that’s especially disappointing because Justin Trudeau promised transparency in his government. After tackling just one chapter of the budget document, it feels to me like the bean counters are just finding creative ways to tuck odd bits of money away for a rainy day. And that hardly seems either transparent or honest.
Image Credit: Dream catcher by Debbie Sandersfeld (aka Walkingbird96,) courtesy of Pixabay; CC0