Budget 2019: KAIROS analysis
While Budget 2019 contains encouraging investments in Indigenous communities and the transition to a clean energy economy, it falls short in many other areas. What follows is an assessment of what Budget 2019 means for issues related to the KAIROS program areas of Indigenous rights, ecological justice, gender justice, mining rights and migrant justice.
The good news is that the federal budget promises more than $4.5 billion to services for Indigenous peoples over five years. In direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action number 3, Jordan`s Principle will receive $1.2 billion over three years to improve services for First Nations children. The budget also addresses the immediate needs of Inuit children by proposing to invest $220 million over five years to improve local capacity to deliver services.
The not-so-good news is that the budget allocates no funds to support Bill C-92, an Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families. This bill, which could be enacted as early as the summer, highlights the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system. When enacted – and properly funded and resourced – this legislation will allow Indigenous communities to manage their own child welfare systems.
Also, on the health front, Budget 2019 proposes $13.7 million per year over seven years to permanently fund the First Nations Regional Health Survey. While access to quality information will help improve Indigenous health, the budget fails to address the immediate need for medical staff and centres, particularly in remote areas. And, despite the federal government’s recent limited apology to the Inuit community on its failure to address the tuberculosis (TB) crisis, the budget allocates no money to eradicating TB in northern communities once and for all.
Financial support for the proposed Indigenous Languages Act will make it possible to implement Indigenous language revitalization projects. The budget also contains funding for the creation of the proposed Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages, but systemic change is also needed to enable widespread use of Indigenous languages moving forward.
Budget 2019 proposes an investment of $824 million over ten years towards the development of K-12 schools for Indigenous communities, and $61.8 million in ongoing support of Indigenous postsecondary education. While this is a good start, more needs to be done to support the youngest and fastest growing segment of Canadian society, which faces systemic and systematic barriers to education compared to non-Indigenous children and youth.
Budget 2019 also includes $12.8 million in 2019-20 to Natural Resources Canada to “maintain capacity to conduct meaningful consultations” with Indigenous communities on major energy projects while supporting economic participation. While Indigenous voices must be included on project development, there is no money in the budget for Indigenous people to support their engagement in these consultations, such as for travel and other expenses.
A deeper investment is necessary to change the structures of consultation to ensure free, prior, and informed consent.
The 2019 budget invests $739 million over five years to eliminate and prevent long term drinking water advisories in First Nation communities. Despite significant strides towards ending these advisories, 32 of the 79 lifted advisories have been re-instated. This calls into question the sustainability of the federal government’s approach and the 2019 budget attempts to address this problem with increased directed funding. The budget also proposes a $211 million investment over five years for emergency management, and $48 million over four years for infrastructure development to support First Nation communities to prepare and adapt for challenges faced due to climate change.
With a changing climate and extreme weather events on the rise, Indigenous communities, 80 percent of which are located in forested areas, are particularly vulnerable to wildfires. Budget 2019 proposes additional investments to renew funding for infrastructure projects on-reserve that will protect communities from climate-related hazards. This is critical as Indigenous communities face disproportionately higher health and safety risks arising from emergencies and natural disasters.
On the environmental front, by investing $1.01 billion in efficient infrastructure and financial incentives for consumers to switch to zero-emission vehicles, Budget 2019 makes significant strides towards the transition to a clean energy economy.
The budget maintains its 2018 allocation of $35 million over five years for the Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to retrain workers. While there are no additional funds, the government is allocating $150 million to support infrastructure for economic diversification in impacted communities. Of interest to KAIROS is the introduction of the Canada Training Credit which has the potential to facilitate a just transition for workers in the fossil fuel industry. $1.7 billion over five years has been allocated to help workers upgrade their professional skills.
The 2019 budget will give $1 million in 2019-20 to Western Economic Diversification Canada to support climate change adaption efforts across the Prairies. These funds will allow for sustainable management of water and soil to ensure resilience to climate change in the Prairie provinces.
Since 2009, the Canadian government has been phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and has committed to cut all inefficient subsidies by 2025. This is being done through rationalizing the tax treatment, phasing out tax preferences, and ending the accelerated capital cost allowance for liquified natural gas facilities by 2025. Unfortunately, the 2019 budget allocates no new for funds to this venture of transitioning away from fossil fuels. The budget promises to continue transparency in examining inefficient fossil fuel subsidies through a peer review process with Argentina, but no money has been set aside in 2019 to aid this process. These subsidies need to be cut more rapidly to meet the 2025 deadline, and the impact of fossil fuel subsidies needs to be reconciled with Canada’s commitment to tackle climate change and limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius.
Regrettably, the budget does not include the funding required to implement the Canadian government’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, which recognizes the importance of women as agents of change and the critical role of women’s rights organizations in building sustainable, just and inclusive development. While the budget includes marginally more funding for international assistance by 2023-2024 and there may be more commitments to come at the Women Deliver conference in early June, it falls significantly short of the funding required to fund and implement the Feminist International Assistance Policy, and to increase international assistance from the current 0.26 percent of gross national income towards the universal standard of 0.7 percent.
KAIROS and its partners have called on Government of Canada to fund and implement its Feminist International Assistance Policy, focusing support on grassroots organizations through diverse, predictable and responsive funding mechanisms that allow for effective long-term support for civil society partners.
Last year, KAIROS welcomed the Budget’s overall gender-based analysis and the consultations with women’s leaders and organizations on its development. That analysis is missing this year.
KAIROS is also disappointed that the 2019 federal budget makes no mention of corporate accountability, even though last year’s budget had earmarked funds for the creation of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. Based on our work with partners, particularly Indigenous women, KAIROS has again included on its 2019 wish list the appointment and funding of a qualified ombudsperson with the power and independence to investigate human and ecological rights violations by Canadian corporations, address the specific impacts of resource extraction on women, and consider the unique perspectives of Indigenous women.The fact the office remains unstaffed, and the 2019 budget is silent on this issue, suggests a lack of commitment on the Government’s part to actually implement corporate accountability measures.
KAIROS will continue to call on the Government of Canada to take serious and meaningful steps to address corporate accountability to ensure that human rights are upheld, Indigenous communities, especially women, are consulted, environmental damage is prevented, and corporations are held accountable when violations do occur.
Finally, the Budget makes no mention of the government’s recent announcement of replacing its problematic Caregiver Pilot Program with two 5-year pilot programs and providing migrant caregivers with the Interim Pathway (March 4 to June 4). These new programs will provide foreign migrant caregivers with a pathway to permanent residence and the flexibility to change jobs quickly and easily. While this change is a step in the right direction, resources are required to help all caregivers transition into this new program, particularly those caught in a bureaucratic red tape.
Statements from other related NGOs:
The Green Budget: greenbudget.ca
The Canadian Council for International Co-operation: ccic.ca/budget-2019
Oxfam Canada: oxfam.ca/news/budget-2019-delivers-historic-investment-in-womens-rights-organizations-but-fails-to-invest-in-accessible-and-affordable-child-care