Publications, opinions, and speeches
The Social Fundamentals
Published on 01/02/1999
Caledon’s critique of the 1999 Budget was issued several hours after it was read in the House of Commons. The Social Fundamentals points out that Canadians have endured several years of tough fiscal medicine in the quest to slay the deficit. The fiscal fundamentals may be right –or at least getting there. But the social fundamentals are far from right and the 1999 Budget moves only slowly in the direction of substantive social improvements.
New funds will ease the crisis in health care and salve the wounds of federal-provincial acrimony around the Canada Health and Social Transfer. But more dollars, even with a fairer distribution, will do little to tackle the underlying structural problems in health care. The Budget announced important improvements to the Canada Child Tax Benefit that forms Ottawa’s commitment to the federal/provincial National Child Benefit System. The Budget also makes a commendable start in the restoration of federal child benefits for modest- and middle-income families. The investment demonstrates Ottawa’s continuing commitment to the National Child Benefit, itself the first substantive model for the new partnership federalism embodied in the recent Social Union Framework Agreement.
But the Budget does not get the fundamentals right in other areas. While it bestows relatively small income tax breaks, these will lose ground to inflation as early as next year. There was no restoration of coverage to unemployment insurance, which has seen a drastic slashing of its clientele in recent years. The lack of action with respect to persons with disabilities is disheartening given the recent signing of the landmark federal-provincial document, In Unison: A Canadian Approach to Disability Issues, that sets out a vision for promoting full citizenship. Neither did the Budget announce any measures in respect of social housing and the serious problem of homelessness. Our assessment of the fiscal context, based on a Caledon debt model, concludes that there is ample fiscal room to make a greater investment in our social infrastructure, cut more taxes or do more of both.
ISBN – 1-894159-37-3