Morneau budget hit the right notes

This piece originally appeared in the Toronto Star on March 24, 2019.

The Liberals had a lot to accomplish in the final budget of their mandate as they head into the election this fall.

An effective government should be able to do four things at once:

  • Address the issues of today facing Canadians.
  • Plan toward the future for our country.
  • Rectify past mistakes and course correct.
  • Manage whatever immediate crisis that may arise.

The crisis management aspect must never overtake the other three priorities. Canadians want to know that while their elected officials may be dealing with the crisis of the day — whether natural disaster, internal conflict, or international tragedy — they won’t lose the ability to govern in the process.

Responsible opposition critique would be best for Canadians if it addressed all four of these areas, rather than overwhelmingly focusing on and further sensationalizing the immediate crisis. The antics deployed by opposition parties — from an attempt to delay the budget speech to a marathon voting session — resulted in a missed opportunity to provide thoughtful critique or offer positive alternatives to the vision for Canada outlined in the budget this past week.

Affordability was central in this budget, and that was made evident by measures helping low-income seniors keep more of their Guaranteed Income Supplement, should they choose to stay in the workforce. The budget further included safeguards to ease the volatility of pensions in the event of company bankruptcies.

Each of these measures go a long way in helping ease anxieties as individuals and families plan toward an uncertain financial future.

The federal budget also introduced a non-taxable Canada Training Benefit aimed at helping Canadians plan for and pay for skills training. A great step toward the lifelong learning strategy we need to ensure Canadians are prepared to adapt to rapid changes in the job market.

(As a young Canadian looking to grow my own family, I was hoping to see a transformative commitment on child care and housing. It felt like the moment, but I’ll hold out hope that a plan is being developed for the election platform.)

When it comes to rectifying past mistakes and course correction, approximately one quarter of all new spending in the 2019 federal budget targets Indigenous investments. The single biggest investment in the budget went toward Indigenous services at $8.1 billion over five years to end boil water advisories on reserves, settle land claims and improve health care.

Allocating funding is one thing, but collaborative and timely implementation of this will be crucial.

On long-term planning, the Liberals found allies in the fight against climate change, this time partnering with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on local efforts to retrofit homes and businesses. This is a critical alignment of municipal and federal government priorities at a time when some provincial counterparts are choosing to fight the federal government on its climate change approach rather than collaborate.

The Liberals also took a necessary step in leading the fight against racism with a commitment to create an anti-racism secretariat. A lot can be learned from the initial steps taken in Ontario to create such a body, properly fund it and ensure that leading grassroots anti-racism organizations are centred in the development of strategies.

Years from now, I look forward to bringing my family on a cross-country tour of the community and capital projects that will be funded over the next five years, commemorating the UN Decade for People of African Descent. I hope to be able to look my children in the eye and tell them I did everything I could to collaborate with leaders and government to help shape a more inclusive Canada, free from racism, ready for them to flourish in.

While the opposition would have you think the crisis of the day should be the only point of focus, the budget announcement served as a chance for the Liberals to show Canadians that there is much more work required for good governance on the broad scale.

What Canadians want is a government that can handle a crisis without losing perspective of the long-term issues facing our country. The budget that was tabled this week displays that this government has not lost sight of the challenges that lay ahead.

Tiffany Gooch is a Toronto-based Liberal strategist at public affairs firms Enterprise and Ensight. She is a freelance contributor for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @goocht