New Social Benefits on the Federal Agenda

by Terrance Hunsley

The Liberal minority government is unveiling its priorities for the new session of  Parliament, as indicated in mandate letters from the PM to his ministers. The Trudeau government adopted the practice of making the letters public after their win in 2015. They are very useful because they provide a clear expression of what the minister is expected to accomplish. There is also an emphasis in the letters for ministers to work as teams, in groups of three or four whose mandates overlap.

Here are a some new developments that we can expect to be implemented (if of course, the government is not defeated in the house.) The list is not complete.

Led by the minister for Children, Families and Social Development: 

A new Canada housing benefit – up to $3000 /yr for selected people – who are on or eligible to be on social housing lists, including survivors of domestic violence or trafficking, homeless or at risk of being homeless, indigenous, seniors, or with disabilities. The government intends to spend about $4 Billion over ten years, although more details need to be worked out, including arrangements with the provinces. (Especially how it will be integrated – or not – with social assistance.) 

The creation of 250,000 before- and after- school child care spaces.  It is not clear yet how much the spaces will be subsidized, or who will be eligible. 

There will be encouragement and more support, for people studying early childhood education. 

This may be related to a mandate of the minister for Women and Gender Equality, who is to work with other ministers to develop a panCanadian child care system. There is little clarity on what this is supposed to look like. This minister will also be responsible to put in place a National Institute for Women’s Health Research.

The minister for the middle class (and associate minister of finance) will be responsible to work across government to pursue the objective of enhancing the lives of the middle class and helping more people into that category. (There is no clarification of what that category actually is). The work will include implementing quality of life measures to guide and evaluate public policy. 

The minister for seniors will be responsible to implement a 10% increase to the OAS for people reaching the age of 75, as well as a  25% increase to survivor benefits from CPP-QPP.  There will also be a project to strengthen Canada’s approach to elder abuse, including developing a clear definition of it.  Healthy aging initiatives will also be encouraged, and it is likely that either New Horizons or other funding mechanisms will support some local projects.

The minister for employment, workforce development and inclusion of people with disabilities, will implement a provision in Employment Insurance for a 15 week leave for adoptive parents. There will also be a new disaster assistance benefit in EI, for people affected by things like fires and floods. (It is not clear why they want to restrict this only to people eligible for EI.) There is an intention to increase student grants by up to 1200/year for postsecondary students, although details need to be worked out with the provinces. The minister is also responsible to establish a Canadian apprenticeship service, details to be developed. And last but not least, the child disability benefit is to be doubled. There will also be new programs to help people with disabilities to integrate into the labour market.

The minister for health is mandated to implement national pharmacare, including a national formulary and a Canadian Drug Agency. There is also an intention to explore the potential for a national dental care program

Wow! Quite a list. Lots of work to be done.

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