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____ Wednesday March 23, 2016 ____

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Federal Budget 2016

First steps towards a fairer and more prosperous Canada

Kitchener – The Waterloo Regional Labour Council responded to the federal budget announcement with optimism, saying it begins the important work of reinvesting in Canadian communities, creating jobs, addressing children’s and seniors’ poverty, and repairing the programs and services Canadians rely on.

“This budget is a step in the right direction for our economy, particularly the Employment Insurance improvements, which will make a big difference for unemployed Canadians, and help stimulate the local economies that need it most right now,” said Labour Council Vice President Mark Cairns.

Cairns also highlighted the government’s infrastructure commitments: “I’m pleased to see significant funding for public transit, affordable housing, social infrastructure and green infrastructure. We can look forward to this creating jobs and helping to build communities across Canada.”

In terms of skills training and workforce development, Cairns noted that the budget contained promising measures, but fell significantly short of what was promised in the government’s election platform. However, Cairns said he was encouraged to see the government announce significant and long-overdue investments in First Nations communities, including support for education, child care and infrastructure, particularly water and wastewater infrastructure. “It is inexcusable that in a nation like ours, a critical necessity like clean water is not available to all. I’m very glad to see the government recognize that and commit the funding necessary to end boil water advisories on reserve in five years,” Cairns said.

Finally, Cairns said he was pleased to see the government’s action on both child poverty and seniors’ poverty in the budget. “Returning the OAS eligibility age to 65 and increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement for single low-income seniors are important signs that this government believes seniors should not be forced to retire in poverty. The next step on this issue is universal expansion of the Canada Pension Plan,” Cairns added. Other aspects of the 2016 budget the WRLC highlighted include:

• The government’s budget projections maintain the Conservatives’ reduced health care transfers to provinces and territories. The WRLC said they are disappointed by that, but hopeful that continued talks between the Health Ministers will result in new, sustained funding for health care that allows our system to meet the needs of our aging population.

• An additional $245 million to welcome and resettle an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees to Canada. The WRLC commended the government for this announcement, and pledged to continue unions’ support for refugees.

• Commitment to a National Early Learning and Child Care Framework, although no immediate investments are promised in the coming year outside of improvements to on-reserve child care facilities. The WRLC believes families could have benefited by immediate, modest investments this year, to help provinces and territories begin to address child care access and affordability.

• Restoration of the Court Challenges Program, an important service cut by the Conservatives that made financial assistance available to individuals and groups to assert their equality rights in Canada’s courts.

• Support for the automotive sector and the promotion of food safety. However, the WRLC noted that these and many other positive aspects of the budget could be compromised if the government ratifies the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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