April 22, 2015
This year’s federal budget introduced a number of targeted tax breaks for families, seniors and small businesses and projects a surplus of $1.6B for the upcoming fiscal year.
1. A national standard for Employment Insurance
Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) system is one of the most complex among advanced economies. While other countries deliver comparable benefits to the unemployed regardless of address, Canada is unique in basing its entitlements on 58 regions of residence. This arrangement contributes to Ontarians receiving less unemployment support than Canadians in other parts of the country.
While the budget extends the EI Compassionate Care Leave to six months for Canadians caring for a seriously ill family member, more can and should be done to modernize the system. Adopting a single national qualification standard for EI should be a priority for the federal government.
The federal government also proposes to lower EI benefits in 2017-18, but will continue to rely on EI premiums to balance the budget — a bad idea for a number of reasons.
2. Long-term affordable housing solutions
Stable, affordable housing is critical to stable employment and benefits the economy at large. However, for many Ontarians and Canadians, there is a significant gap between what they can afford to pay for housing and the cost of the available supply in the market.
Federal funding for social housing is declining each year and will eventually be eliminated. This has put unsustainable pressure on municipal governments to maintain existing social housing while trying to meet the growing demand for new social and affordable housing.
The federal government’s revenue sources and obligations provide it with long-term fiscal flexibility and tools that are unavailable to municipalities or provincial governments. In partnership with other levels of government, the federal government should establish a long-term framework to address housing needs.
For many Ontarians and Canadians, there is a significant gap between what they can afford to pay for housing and the cost of the available supply in the market.
3. More reliable census data
In 2010, the federal government replaced the long-form census with the voluntary National Household Survey (NHS). Up until then, the long-form census had been a reliable source of information for both private and public decision-making. With the launch of the NHS however, response rates plummeted from 93 to 68 per cent. This has lead to data that is of poorer quality and more unreliable, especially at more detailed geographical areas, such as census sub-divisions or neighbourhoods.
In addition, people in smaller communities or who belong to historically disadvantaged groups are less likely to respond to the NHS. This both distorts data and hurts whole groups that would likely benefit the most from the government services that would be informed by NHS data.
By comparison, the long-form census is a more reliable, richer and less costly data gathering method. The federal government should reinstate it as soon as possible.
The long-form census is a more reliable, richer and less costly data gathering method.
Stay tuned for more on these and other recommendations in our Federal Economic Agenda for Ontario report.
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April 22, 2015