It is paramount we make sure that all Canadians have access to the resources they need to succeed. As a community, we help out our neighbours. As a country, we must help our fellow Canadians overcome challenges and breakdown barriers. I can say with confidence, Budget 2017 supports access to resources for all Canadians, including our most vulnerable.
Making Home Internet Access More Affordable for Low-Income Families
In 2017, the world we live in is digital. Access to Internet can either limit opportunities, if access is scarce, or it can open up a world of opportunities. We use the Internet to build networks and connections through social media, and to learn about new subjects and access resources at the tip of our fingers. Unfortunately, not all Canadians have the same access to Internet.
With our new Budget, our Government has committed $13.2 million (CHECK THIS NUMBER, THOUGHT IT WAS HIGHER). over five years to invest in a new Affordable Access program. This new program will help service providers offer low-cost home Internet packages to interested low-income families.
But I know that affordable Internet does not ensure access, as the cost of computer hardware is also a barrier for families. I am proud we are building on our commitment to accessible internet with a target of distributing 50,000 refurbished computers through the existing Computers for Success Canada program alongside the low-cost Internet packages.
Support for LGBTQ2 Persons
I am proud that our Prime Minister raised the Pride flag upon Parliament Hill for the first time ever on June 1, 2016. Our Government tabled Bill C-16 to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination – a necessary, but unprecedented move. But although we have come a long way in improving the rights and protections of LQBTQ2 peoples, much more still needs to be done.
We are increasing support for the Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on LGBTQ2 issues. Our Government will establish an LGBTQ2 Secretariat within the Privy Council Office (PCO), which will support the work of the Special Advisor. We are committed to working with LGBTQ2 organizations and communities to promote equality, protect their rights, and address discrimination against them – both historical and current. To achieve this, Budget 2017 will invest $3.6 million over three years to the Privy Council Office to support our initiatives on LGBTQ2 issues.
Sadly, we know that Indigenous women, children and youth, and LGBTQ2 and non-gender conforming people are at an even greater risk of experiencing gender-based violence. Budget 2017 will also invest $100.9 million over five years and $20.7 million per year thereafter to establish a National Strategy to Address Gender-Based Violence.
Giving Canadians with Disabilities Opportunities to Succeed
On Wednesday, March 1 I had the opportunity to visit a local Parkdale-High Park organization Balance for Blind Adults [tag @balanceforblindadults] and see first-hand the effectiveness of assistive technology.
Assistive technologies such as screen readers, alternative keyboards and refreshable braille displays can make it easier for Canadians with disabilities to more fully participate in the digital economy. To expand the range of assistive technologies our Government will establish a new Accessible Technology Development program. This program would co-fund innovative projects led by private sector firms, non-profit organizations, and research institutes, to develop new assistive devices and technologies. Budget 2017 will invest $22.3 million over five years to establish this program.
Transit and Infrastructure
Our Government’s infrastructure plan included $11.9 billion over five years in Budget 2016 – $3.4 billion over three years specifically to upgrade and improve public transit systems across Canada.
To support the next phase of ambitious public transit projects, the Government will invest $20.1 billion over 11 years through bilateral agreements with provinces and territories. This funding will make it possible for Canadian communities to build the new urban transit networks and service extensions that will transform the way that Canadians live, move and work.
As of March 8, 2017, 744 public transit projects have been approved, including 214 projects that will make public transit more accessible for people with disabilities.
Enabling Accessibility Fund
The Enabling Accessibility Fund supports the construction and renovation of public spaces to make them more accessible, making it possible for Canadians with disabilities to participate more fully in their community and the economy.
Budget 2017 will provide $77 million over 10 years to expand the activities of the Enabling Accessibility Fund. Eligible projects will include constructing and renovating infrastructure (e.g., adding ramps, automatic door openers and accessible washrooms), providing accessible information and communication technologies and retrofitting vehicles.
For the men and women who have given so much to Canada, we know we must support them in any way we can.
Budget 2016 invested $5.6 billion over six years to give more money to veterans with injuries or illnesses incurred during military service. In particular, Budget 2016:
- Raised income replacement under the Earnings Loss Benefit to 90 per cent of pre-release salary for veterans who require rehabilitation or cannot return to work.
- Expanded access to higher grades of the Permanent Impairment Allowance to better support veterans who have had their career options limited by a service-related illness or injury.
- Increased compensation for pain and suffering by increasing the Disability Award to a maximum of $360,000 in 2017.
Budget 2016 also restored critical access to services for veterans by:
- Reopening nine service offices across the country, opening an additional service office and expanding outreach to veterans in the north.
- Hiring additional case managers to reduce the client-to-case manager ratio to no more than 25:1 to help veterans make successful transitions to civilian life.
Education and Training
Our Government is committed to facilitating a smooth transition to civilian life, and supporting our veterans’ well-being.
To help, Budget 2017 proposes to amend legislation to create a new Education and Training Benefit. In short, this benefit would provide more money for veterans to go to college, university or a technical school after they complete their service, through an investment of $133.9 million over six years, and $10.3 million per year ongoing.
The new program would begin in April 2018 for veterans honourably released on or after April 1, 2006. Veterans with 6 years of eligible service would be entitled to up to $40,000 of benefits, while veterans with 12 years of eligible service would be entitled to up to $80,000 of benefits.
But I know that going back to school is not the best option for everyone. That’s why I’m proud Budget 2017 proposes to amend legislation to enhance the Career Transition Services Program. The services offered would be expanded to include coaching and job placement assistance, all of which would be provided through a national contractor starting in April 2018. The investment would total $74.1 million over six years, and $4.5 million per year ongoing.
Expanding Access to the Military Family Resource Centres for Medically Released Veterans’ Families
The Military Family Resource Centres provide support networks and resources for veterans and their families, including access to mental health and wellness programs, and connections to skills training and employment resources.
Budget 2017 will invest $147 million over six years, and $15 million per year ongoing, to expand access to the Military Family Resource Centres. This would increase the availability of the Military Family Resource Centres for medically released veterans from 7 locations under the current pilot to all 32 locations across the country.
In addition, in order to better support veterans and their families, Budget 2017 proposes to invest $22.4 million over three years in an outreach strategy to ensure they are informed of the range of supports available to them.
To re-cap on how support for multiculturalism means supporting access to resources for all Canadians:
Affordable Housing Support
As part of our Government’s affordable housing mandate, Budget 2017 will establish a National Housing Fund to address critical housing issues and prioritize support for vulnerable citizens, including: seniors; Indigenous Peoples; survivors fleeing situations of domestic violence; persons with disabilities; those dealing with mental health and addiction issues; and veterans.
Administered through CMHC, this Fund will receive an investment of $5 billion over the next 11 years.
Recognizing Foreign Credentials
I have heard from newcomers about the challenges they face when trying use their skills and experience to contribute to our workforce. Even after obtaining Permanent Resident status, highly skilled newcomers face barriers that limit their employment opportunities, and their successful integration into Canada.
To ensure that we are maximizing their potential contributions to our economy and allowing them to put their skills to good use, Budget 2017 will reallocate $27.5 million over five years, and $5.5 million per year thereafter from the current Employment and Social Development Canada’s existing resources to a Targeted Employment Strategy for Newcomers.
Security Infrastructure Program
No one deserves to feel unsafe because of their faith. With the rise in hate-motivated crimes, I am proud that our Government has responded with a program to support targeted communities. Budget 2017 will provide $5 million over five years to support the Communities at Risk: Security Infrastructure Program. The program provides funding for not-for-profit organizations to make needed security infrastructure improvements, such as the installation of outdoor lighting or security cameras. I was proud to personally support applications for to this program for places of worship in Parkdale-High Park, so that community members and worshippers can feel safe and secure regardless of their religious background.
Better Legal Aid Services for Asylum Seekers
Personally, I am heartened to see more support for legal aid services for asylum seekers. Throughout my education and legal career, I advocated for human rights and increased access to justice. I was one of the founders of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO), and served on its Board of Directors for nearly eight years to help secure permanent annual funding.
I was also proud to stand with Minister Joly on February 7, 2017 to announce the reinstatement of the Court Challenges Program to ensure access to justice for those who need it the most.
The immigration and refugee application system can be difficult for newcomers. Legal aid services provide invaluable advice, information, and representation for eligible asylum claimants to help establish their cases, and contribute to fair and timely decisions. Budget 2017 will provide $62.9 million over five years, and $11.5 million thereafter to enhance the delivery of immigration and refugee legal aid services in partnership with the provinces and territories. We have an open and compassionate immigration and refugee system–this legal aid funding ensures that our welcoming system is also accessible, to all who legitimately seek safe haven in Canada.
Stay tuned for the next installment of my Budget 2017 series tomorrow! Next up: support for seniors.
“We’re very happy to see that the government is committed to helping low-income Canadians access opportunities, particularly youth who face many barriers who successfully achieve an education and employment.”
– Jesse Clark, Director, Pathways to Education
“I think it’s a great budget. It’s a skills budget, basically, and can say, or dare to say, it’s almost a College and Institutes budget because everything almost that is in that budget is what our members are telling us that was missing, whether it was issues that students had, it was re-skillings of adults, or it was the industry that was saying they didn’t have the talent they needed. On top of it, there were a number of measures for vulnerable groups. And whether you look at the new funding for indigenous students, the funding for numeracy and literacy for northern communities, so all those things will help us, equip us, in fact to do a better job to ensure that more Canadians reach the middle class. And so for us, it’s a great, great budget.”
– Denise Amyot, President and CEO, Colleges and Institutes Canada
Arif Virani MP for Parkdale-High Park Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism