Labour Federation pleased with federal budget promises on pharmacare and pay equity

By Joan Wark
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Nova Scotia Federation of Labour President Danny Cavanagh is pleased to see some decent changes for workers in the Federal Budget released yesterday. 

We are pleased to see a promise to deliver long overdue proactive pay equity legislation in the Budget Implementation Act.

The establishment of a distinct Pay Equity Commission and a Hearings Tribunal are both necessary components of a proactive pay equity regime. Other positive measures like enhanced parental leave and the use of a gender equality lens are good and we will see how that plays out.

We like the new apprenticeship and training initiatives including incentive grants for women entering the Red Seal trades, pre-apprenticeship programs targeting under-represented groups, additional support for women in trades and investments in skills building for women new to Canada.

Other key items we are glad to see:

-Extending Working While on Claim provisions to those on maternity and sick leave.

-A commitment of an additional $86 million over five years to the Gender-Based Violence Strategy and additional commitments to combat workplace harassment and violence and a commitment to five days of paid leave for victims of domestic violence.

-Making Status of Women Canada an official government department and providing it with $100 million over five years to enhance the Women’s Program.

We are encouraged to see dedicated leave for second parents but had hoped that child care would be more of a priority in a federal budget, so we could really see more participation of women in the workforce. The government must remove barriers women face to their participation in the workforce which is a universal child care system. We think that over time the government must get funding to the internationally recognized benchmark of one per cent of GDP. We like that there is $250 million for small crafts and harbour projects and $75 million for the fight of the spruce budworm work which will touch the region.

The commitment to setting up an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare is a good establish a universal prescription drug plan.

Let’s not lose sight that we will continue to fight until we get a National Pharmacare Program in place. Remember that the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Standing Committee on Health were in favour of this and it’s time for the federal government to make a real political and financial commitment to making Pharmacare a reality.

The budget also commits to expanding protections to workers under the Wage Earner Protection Program Act with the increased maximum limit so that workers’ final paycheques, severance and vacation pay are better protected when companies go bankrupt. It’s unfortunate that the government didn’t go further by ensuring that pensioners have the same protections and are prioritized in bankruptcy situations.

We are very happy to see an additional $127.7 million for an Employment Insurance call centre so a workers’ EI claims get provided with better services like accurate and timely information and better assistance with their benefits. We are also pleased that the 2018 budget includes measures to improve service for workers employed in seasonal industries.

After pouring more than $900 million in taxpayer money into the beleaguered Phoenix pay system, the federal government is looking at eventually scrapping the software altogether.

The 2018-19 budget calls for an additional $431 million to address problems created by Phoenix, a system that has underpaid, overpaid — or not paid at all — thousands of federal public servants.

That’s in addition to the $460 million already committed to both implement the pay system and resolve subsequent problems, according to the federal budget released Tuesday. A CBC investigation last fall found evidence the government has already spent much more. This is long overdue and the faster this is fixed the better.

We were very pleased to see money allocated in the Budget for mental health help and support for anti-racism measures.

Residential schools’ survivors and their families will get help with their mental health via $248.6 million over three years as the Indian Residential School Settlement, launched in 2007, winds down. Community organizations that serve Black Canadians will also get $19 million over five years to help at-risk youth and to research and develop more culturally focused mental health supports. The government’s also given a $23 million boost over two years to the Multiculturalism Program to fund the development of a new anti-racism effort.




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