The Liberal government is stalling its own signature promises on child care, pharmacare, and long-term care, leaving vulnerable Canadians to continue waiting for much-needed help in the middle of a global pandemic. While the government was expected to use Monday’s Fall Economic Statement to chart a course to meet these promises announced in the September throne speech, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland only offered Canadians more delays and more disappointment.
On child care, the government committed $4.3 million per year for five years to establish a child care secretariat, but no new dollars for actual child care spaces. “Canadians have been waiting for a generation for the Liberals to act on child care,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “While hundreds of thousands of parents, especially women, are being held back from returning to work, the Liberals are asking them: why not wait another five years?”
Meanwhile, the government is offering $1 billion to the provinces to boost infection control and PPE stock in long-term care facilities, which is effectively a subsidy to facility operators that does very little to address systemic issues. “This is another piecemeal announcement that underlines the disappointing lack of progress the federal government has made on its promise to enact national standards for the sector,” said Hancock.
Eighty per cent of the COVID-19 fatalities in Canada have been either residents or workers in long-term care. Meanwhile, across Canada, COVID-19 outbreaks continue to overwhelm long-term care facilities where lax standards continue to leave residents underserved and staff overworked.
And on pharmacare, the Liberals had nothing to say at all, while millions of Canadians struggle with the price of prescriptions in the middle of a global health crisis.
“Where is the urgency? Canadians need a rapid response to the crisis unfolding in our communities right now, not five years from now,” said CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury. “We don’t have time for more empty gestures.”
Elsewhere in Monday’s economic update, CUPE was pleased to see the government commit to making digital giants like Amazon and Airbnb begin paying their fair share in taxes, as well as some limited action on CEO stock options. CUPE was also disappointed to see the government continuing to take the discredited P3 approach to investing in green infrastructure, which we know results in lower wages and higher user fees for the public.