By Jillian Premachuk, BSW Student and Morgan Teeple Hopkins, Law Student
We are pleased to announce that the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has released its annual Alternative Federal Budget (AFB) for 2016. For those of us working toward a more equitable Canada, the AFB has become an important source of practical budgetary proposals against which we can measure the government’s spending decisions.
“We can afford to have better lives, from beginning to end.”
The 2016 AFB criticizes the previous government’s austerity agenda, which resulted in growing inequality among Canadians. This agenda included the lowest government spending as a proportion of GDP in the last 60 years, the withdrawal of public services and support programs, and an increasingly regressive taxation system.
“The past decade in Canada has taught us to think small, be cautious, exercise restraint. It’s time to think big again.”
In Canada, the top 1% pays a lower share of income in taxes than the poorest 10%.
According to the AFB, inequality and poverty must be addressed by both redistribution and pre-distribution measures. The first method requires ensuring that our taxation scheme operates progressively to redistribute resources to those most in need.
Major proposals found in the new AFB include investing in infrastructure, developing an affordable housing strategy, increasing affordable child care spaces, and eliminating university tuition, among many others.To that end, the AFB supports the new federal government’s decision to axe the Universal Child Care Benefit and introduce a new Canada Child Benefit that will provide low-income families with $6,400 per year, per child, up to age six.
But taxation measures do not go far enough. The AFB also proposes creating a universal, publicly funded child care program as part of a poverty and inequality reduction.
Further, the new government needs more economic and social polices designed to facilitate equitable pre-distribution (how income is shared within society before redistribution through taxation). Measures that impact on pre-distribution include raising the minimum wage and increasing unionization rates.
We are especially pleased to see that the AFB again endorses a comprehensive, federal poverty reduction plan.
It is a particularly opportune time to discuss a federal poverty reduction plan as the NDP has recently introduced a private member’s bill to implement a poverty reduction strategy.
In terms of targets, the AFB’s poverty reduction plan proposes reducing poverty rates by 40% by 2020 and by 75% within the next decade.
The AFB suggests that the government implement the following measures:
- Establish a human rights framework by which the federal government provides leadership on poverty and inequality issues.
- Introduce a new federal transfer payment to the provinces and territories to help them achieve their poverty reduction goals (most of these funds should be used to improve social assistance and disability benefit rates).
- Legislate minimum national standards for provincial income assistance to ensure that welfare is accessible and adequate.
“There is more than enough fiscal room for us all to grow. It’s time to build a future that includes us all.”
You can check out the entire 2016 Alternative Federal Budget here!