The federal government has released its 2021 budget.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland presented the nearly 740-page budget yesterday which details how Canada will deal with its enormous deficit of $354 billion.
The federal government plans to reduce the deficit slowly over the next five years through various measures, some of which include: a new tax on cigarettes and nicotine vape products, a new tax on large digital companies that rely on Canadian content, new taxes on luxury vehicles like private airplanes and boats, and a new tax for non-residents who own property in Canada, among others.
The plan also includes large investments in child care with $30 billion in spending in child-care programs and claims there will be a 50 per cent cut to costs by 2023.
Another $17 billion is going to green economy programs, as well as ocean and lands conservation.
Premier Caroline Cochrane said in a Tuesday press conference that she was pleased to see the tabling of the first ever budget by a woman federal finance minister and that “while we’re still combing through the 700-plus page document, I can say I have a sense of optimism.”
“Canada understands the impact the pandemic has had on the North which has laid bare the gaps in our society,” she said.
Cochrane said her government has been communicating the needs of the North to the federal government and the GNWT “has a strong partner in Canada” in addressing the North’s needs.
“We feel that the Government of Canada has been listening to us,” Cochrane said.
The premier said that the GNWT will be looking to capitalize on federal investments in the tourism industry to support hard-hit northern businesses as well as green economy funding to help assist rare earths mining.
Specifically, the NWT is getting $14.2 million to renew the Territorial Health Investment Fund, $25 million for the construction of 30 new public housing units, and $8 million over two years to support the Aurora College polytechnic transition.
Cochrane said it was premature to release specific details about the new public housing units, but she was assured by the Minister of Northern Affairs, Dan Vandal, that the NWT “would be able to leverage our ability to be able to apply for other housing monies.”
The $8 million for the polytechnic university will go towards continuing to develop the learning institution’s development plan and ensuring the school will meet the needs of northerners, Cochrane said.
She also applauded the efforts to reduce child care costs and that since the Liberal government had been promising universal child care for over a year, she expected it in the budget.
“The hope that by 2026 that people will be paying $10 per day for child care is a dream for most parents,” she said.
“We have 33 communities in the NWT and not all of them have child care centres in them so it’s one thing to supplement child care centres … However, yesterday in my phone call with the federal minister (Vandal), I stressed that we also need to have flexibility within that funding so we can build the child care centres that we need.”
In the budget, over $18 billion dollars has been earmarked for improving the lives of Indigenous, First Nations and Inuit peoples with investments in health care, community infrastructure, clean drinking water and more.
Cochrane said she is pleased that the government has recognized the needs of Indigenous governments and peoples and are working towards reducing gaps in Indigenous communities.
“We’ve spent the last year and a half, and more, building strong partnerships with Indigenous governments, so as we move forward I’m hoping that we’ll be able to look at these areas, identify what they’re going to do and tailor our programs so that we coincide.”
“We don’t want to be stepping on each other’s toes.”
Member of Parliament Micheal McLeod released a statement Tuesday stating he is pleased to see items on the budget focusing on improving the lives of northerners.
“With NWT-specific investments such as $25 million for housing and $8 million toward the Aurora College transformation, this budget directly addresses some of our territory’s top priorities,” he stated.
McLeod also pointed to a new $4.3 billion Indigenous Community Infrastructure Fund, an extra $1 billion in support to the tourism sector and expanding access to the up to $1,200 travel component of the Northern Residents Deduction to Northerners without employer-provided travel benefits as measures that will benefit Northern and Indigenous communities.
The budget has already received criticism from virtually all opposition parties and it will be debated over the next four days with the possibility of amendments from the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois which will be voted on.
If all opposition parties vote against the budget, an election could be called, however NDP leader Jagmeet Signh has said he will not force an election.