March is federal budget season in Ottawa and this year the national budget will be presented by the Finance Minister Bill Morneau on March 22. With the new Trump administration in Washington also bringing forward its first budget, Ottawa seems to be very pragmatic to wait and see what will be brought forward south of the border. Two major areas seem to be the main focus in this year’s Canadian budget – skilled labour and public assets on the verge of being privatized – both through gender-based lenses.
A Big Focus on Skilled Labour: A Chance to intensify training for Workers
The federal government keeps saying that there is a need to have more skilled and trained workers in Canada. Skills development, workers training and recruitment should be at the center of the labour agenda.
Despite encouraging employment numbers recently released by Statistics Canada, we will see if the government puts in place, measures to help young workers, whose unemployment rate is 12.4% as opposed to the national unemployment rate of 6.6%.
Public Assets and Privatization: A real Danger to Airport Workers
Because of a slow economic growth since 2008, the federal government is eager to find new ways to generate money in the short term. The privatization of public assets is a fiscal leverage that has been used by the federal government in the 1980s’. In the UK, the infamous Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided to sell off public assets at the expense of the UK working class. The current Liberal government is looking at privatizing airports (and ports) as a possible way to generate federal revenues. The IAM is very concerned with that possible outcome and will scrutinize the upcoming budget to make sure that our membership is well informed and protected.
The gender-based lenses: A new approach that is not new
Another good reason to pay attention to the upcoming budget is the fact this year, the finance departments will use a gender-based policy approach. Despite the fact that this approach will be fully implemented, it is not new. In 1995, Canada pledged at the United Nations conference on women to “ensure that before policy decisions are taken, an analysis of their impact on women and men, respectively, is carried out.” Regrettably, since then, not a lot has been done on that front.
Other Topics in the Federal Budget: more Details on big Infrastructure Projects
We can foresee a budget going into more details as to how the federal government intends to spend federal revenue on the big infrastructure projects announced in last year’s budget. These projects are to be undertaken over a 10-year period to stimulate the economy.
In addition to the ongoing Canada Health Transfer, the federal government has signed bilateral health agreements with provincial and territorial governments spelling the end for a national Health Accord. That important spending will part of the 2017 budget.
Finally, as for defense spending, we will have to wait until the fall to have those numbers.