KAIROS reviews Budget 2024

Budget Review 2024
Budget Review 2024

While the federal government offered some good news in Budget 2024, which it announced on April 16, it also presented disappointments for KAIROS’ program areas.  

We are told that Budget 2024 is an attempted balancing act of spending increases while keeping inflation at bay. However, it was often presented as a false choice between affordability and domestic priorities, and international assistance. We maintain that it is not only possible but necessary to do both. The well-being of people in Canada depends on the well-being of the global community.  

KAIROS was happy, and relieved, to see an increase in ODA, although at $350 million over two years, it’s much less than what KAIROS, its network and other civil society organizations called for. It’s also in stark contrast to the significant funding increases to Canada’s defense department to the tune of $8.1 billion over five years and $73 billion over 20.  

As KAIROS can attest through its six-year Women of Courage: Women, Peace and Security Program, women peacebuilders and environmental defenders hold the key to sustainable peace and prosperity in their communities and countries. Sustained and significant funding to ODA with priority to women led grassroots organizers is urgently needed now. 

While we are pleased that the government substantially increased its capital gains tax on wealthy companies and individuals to help redistribute wealth and support its budget, we are very disappointed that it did not go further by applying a tax on the oil and gas sector’s excess profits. 

This budget is another disappointment for Indigenous communities in Canada, falling far short of what is required to fund reconciliation and ensure that Indigenous rights are respected and that UNDRIP is implemented.  

For migrant workers, the budget offers the smallest of crumbs, and nothing in support of regularization that the government has promised for years. 

KAIROS’ Programs’ team weighs in on areas it has been tracking.  

Ecological Justice  

KAIROS is deeply concerned by the lack of investment in climate action in Budget 2024. Budget 2024 announces only $2 billion in net new climate spending over the next five years. This is compared to $63 billion in new climate-related spending in Budget 2023. 

As per KAIROS’ analysis last year, we are concerned with the federal government’s reliance on tax credits and corporate incentives. These mechanisms are slow to take effect and rely on the private sector to step up. The scale of investment needed to put the economy on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050 will require significant public spending. In its report Spending What it Takes, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives identifies that the federal government needs to be spending the equivalent to approximately 2 percent of GDP to achieve decarbonization. Current spending amounts to roughly 0.5 percent of GDP. 

Some good announcements made in Budget 2024 include public investment in the development of high-frequency rail (HFR) in the Toronto-Quebec corridor and plans to launch consultation for a Youth Climate Corps. Unfortunately, no timeline or budget was defined for the latter. 

Budget 2024 falls woefully short on a vision of just transition that could help to solve multiple crises at once, including housing, poverty, affordability, etc. One promising step was the announcement of the Greener Homes Affordability Program to support energy efficiency retrofits for low-income housing, but so much more needs to be done. 

KAIROS hoped that Budget 2024 would announce a tax on the oil and gas sector’s excess profits. This revenue would go a long way to address affordability and support the level of investment needed for decarbonization. Egregiously, the Finance Department dropped that idea after heavy lobbying from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Budget 2024 does include some significant gains for tax fairness but regrettably, allows the oil and gas sector to continue with business-as-usual.  

The federal government makes no new commitments to international climate financing. In 2021, Canada committed $5.3 billion over five years (2021/22 to 2025/26) to mitigation and adaptation. Analysis of Canada’s fair share contribution to global finance shows that Canada should be spending upwards of $9 billion over five years, or $1.8 billion per year. 

The budget highlights the $16 million that Canada committed at COP28 towards the start-up cost of a global fund to address climate-related loss and damage. It’s a start, but much more is needed. A study, released in October 2023, estimates that climate change is costing the world $16 million an hour in extreme weather damage, already. This cost will only increase over time as the impacts of climate change worsen.  

KAIROS and its partners in Canada and around the world will continue to advocate for the federal government to contribute its fair share to address loss and damage, and support those most impacted by climate change worldwide. These groups include women and Indigenous communities, most affected by climate change – the least heard and the most likely to have solutions. KAIROS continues to call for loss and damage funds and climate financing to be available to local partners, prioritizing grants instead of loans and for this funding to be separate and in addition to the ODA.  We are disappointed that most of the funding for loss and damage and climate finance is in the form of loans, not grants, to local partners, and that no additional funding, outside the ODA budget, was announced.  

What the community is saying:  

Climate Action Network – Canada: Civil society organizations react to federal Budget 2024 – Climate Action Network Canada (CAN-Rac) 

Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives: Budget 2024 pushes new climate action down the road | The Monitor (monitormag.ca) 

Indigenous Rights 

The lack of reference to reconciliation or commitment to nation-to-nation relationships with Indigenous Peoples in Minister Freeland’s Budget 2024 speech is a glaring failure. 

Budget 2024 announced over $9 billion in new funding for Indigenous Peoples over five years, including $2.95 billion for 2024-2025. While some increased investments in key areas were welcomed by Indigenous organizations (see “What the Community is Saying” below), the Budget falls short in securing the level of investment needed. 

According to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN)’s National Chief, Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak, “the 2024 Federal Budget falls short of addressing the urgent and long-term needs identified by First Nations.” 

Of this, $918 million was identified for Indigenous housing and infrastructure but this falls significantly short of the over $425 billion identified by Indigenous organizations to close the infrastructure gap. The federal government has committed to closing that gap by 2030. Investment in these areas is critical for upholding Indigenous rights, advancing reconciliation, and building long-term resilience to climate impacts. 

KAIROS is encouraged by some funding committed to advance rights-based discussions and support Indigenous sovereignty. 

The federal government committed $5 billion for the Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program. KAIROS is supportive of this effort that will facilitate Indigenous ownership of resource projects and advance economic development in Indigenous communities. The program is designed to be “sector agnostic,” meaning that oil and gas projects could be eligible.  

What the community is saying: 

Assembly of First Nations: Budget 2024 Leaves a Long Way to Go for First Nations, says AFN National Chief Woodhouse Nepinak 

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: ITK encouraged by Budget 2024 investments in Inuit housing, infrastructure and food security — Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami 

Metis National Council: Métis National Council Supportive of Budget 2024 | Métis National Council (metisnation.ca) 

Gender Justice/Women Peacebuilders 

KAIROS welcomes the government’s announcement of $350 million over two years in additional humanitarian aid as well as the government’s stated commitment to be at the forefront on addressing mounting challenges.  

“Climate change, debt, pandemics, and conflicts are all serving to test the ability of the global system to respond, and deliver on the promise of prosperity to the poorest and most vulnerable around the world… Canada is at the forefront of this work.”  

However, to respond in a meaningful and effective way much more money is needed and much more needs to be done. This budget increase brings Canada’s ODA contributions up to $7.2 billion per year. However, Canada’s commitment to ODA is still well below the international standard of 0.7 percent. 

It’s not just about the amount funding. It is about how and where this funding is allocated. To be at the forefront of responding to global intersecting challenges of conflict, climate, and gender injustice more funding is needed for local organizations, for women’s organizations, for peacebuilders and for environmental defenders. This is not evident in Budget 2024. In fact, most of the funding is allocated to large multilateral organizations.   

It is disappointing that in a context of escalating global conflict, where discussions and work for peace are needed more than ever, there is little to no mention of peacebuilding and women peacebuilders in this budget. There is ample evidence that investing in women peacebuilders leads to more durable, equitable and just peace. We know this and it is recognized in the government’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP). Yet, despite passing reference to FIAP in Budget 2024, support for peace and women peacebuilders is absent from Budget 2024. 

The disparity in additional funding in the next five years for defense – $9.975 billion – and International Humanitarian Assistance – $350 million is stark. Comparing these figures, Canada’s commitment to build conditions for sustainable, equitable and just peace is less than 3.5 percent of what we are spending on defense. Local peacebuilders and peacebuilding initiatives are not mentioned in the budget.   

We are concerned about the focus on the private sector and public-private partnerships in the   provision of international assistance. We recognize that working with the private sector can provide opportunities for leveraging funds and for innovation, but not if these activities undermine human rights, equity and gender justice, and not if the very principles of FIAP are undermined. This has been the experience of local partners who continue to call on the Canadian government for corporate accountability and mandatory legislation to hold Canadian companies accountable for human rights and environmental impacts, highlighting the impacts on women.  

What the community is saying: 

Cooperation Canada:  

Canadian Aid Sector Welcomes Budget Boost for Humanitarian Needs and Reacting to Budget 2024 

Migrant Justice 

In the intricate tapestry of Canada’s economy and society, migrant workers occupy a unique and often overlooked position. They are the backbone of vital industries such as care, tourism, housing and agriculture and fisheries. They contribute to the labour and expertise to fuel the nation’s growth and prosperity. Yet, behind the scenes, migrant workers navigate a complex web of policies, uncertainties and barriers.   

One of the most concerning aspects of the proposed budget is the absence of measures addressing regularization for people without status. Since 2021, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has been tasked to “explore ways of regularizing status for undocumented workers who are contributing to Canadian communities.” 

Cabinet has signaled that it is working on regulation but it’s dragging its feet, so much so that KAIROS, along with other civil society organizations, wrote to the government urging action on the matter.  

Unfortunately, the budget offers no indication that an announcement will be made soon. There is no line item in support of such a development. 

Migrant workers may find themselves in precarious situations due to visa restrictions, changes in their employment circumstances and other factors beyond their control. For the undocumented, the lack of pathway to regularization means that they are forced to live and work in the shadows, without access to essential services, labour protections, or legal rights. This not only exacerbates their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse but also undermines their ability to fully contribute to Canadian society. Without meaningful efforts to address regularization, many migrant workers will continue to live in fear and uncertainty. The cycles of exploitation and marginalization will be perpetuated. It is imperative that the government prioritize the regularization of undocumented migrants as part of its broader immigration and social policy agenda. 

This action, along with permanent residency for documented workers, would empower workers to leave abusive employers and dangerous workplaces. It would also facilitate access to health and other benefits such as Employment Insurance, which they contribute to but cannot access if they work less than 12 months in a calendar year, which a proposed class action lawsuit is challenging. 

In 2018, the government temporarily provided up to five additional weeks for a maximum of 45 weeks in EI coverage to eligible seasonal workers in 13 economic regions. It’s set to expire in October this year. In Budget 2024, the government plans to extend it for two more years. 

This tiny crumb speaks more to the precarity of migrant workers than to a meaningful response to the problems associated with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. 

Offering some glimmer of hope for migrant workers who are struggling to find stable accommodation is the government’s investment in affordable housing initiatives, such as the Rapid Housing Initiative and the Federal Community Housing Initiative. Access to affordable housing is critical for integration in Canadian society and their ability to build a future here. However, it remains to be seen how effective these initiatives will be in addressing the housing needs of migrant workers, particularly those who may face discrimination or barriers to housing.

Filed in: Ecological Justice, Gender Justice, Gender Justice/Women of Courage, Indigenous Rights, Migrant Justice

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