Our politicians are designing Canada’s next federal budget right now. But this is more than just an annual exercise to figure out how to spend money for the year.
How governments budget play a key role in setting their priorities. Though budgets can be tricky to decode, they influence almost every part of our lives.
- Frustrated by rising rents? The budget shapes the rules of the housing market.
- Concerned about climate change? The budget lays the foundation for our plan to fight it.
- Vexed by the high costs of child care? The budget shapes the fees you pay.
- Flummoxed by student debts? The budget shapes the cost of tuition and interest on student loans.
And that’s just the beginning of what budgets do.
Past budgets have slowly tightened the squeeze on young Canadians, making affordability an issue in almost every part of our lives.
At Gen Squeeze, we’re asking for the budget to include five key policies that will help young people — and Canadians of all ages — thrive.
1. Introduce a national vacant homes tax on non-Canadians who don’t live in Canada
We think ALL Canadians should be able to afford a good home. Unfortunately, we’ve allowed Canadian homes to be treated as just another investment opportunity and a place to park money, leaving homes empty and driving up prices.
A tax on homes that are left vacant will help increase the number of available rental units, deter speculation, and prevent prices from spiralling further beyond our reach. Putting a penalty on leaving a home empty incentivizes owners to put them on the rental market, or discourages them from snapping up a home they plan to leave empty in the first place.
This type of tax, which was promised by the Liberals during their election campaign, was introduced by the City of Vancouver in 2017. The city recently released data showing that vacancy rates have improved by 30% since the start of the program.
2. Create a national program to incentivize landlords to repair and retrofit existing affordable rental homes
Many affordable rental homes across the country are aging and in need of repair. The living conditions might be shabby or energy inefficient, making them rough on a renter’s wellbeing as well as the environment. But with vacancy rates so low, there is often no incentive for landlords to put money into fixing them.
A rental housing preservation program (say that five times fast) would be a combination of grants and tax breaks that incentivize building owners to renovate and retrofit their buildings. This program would stop buildings from continuing to deteriorate unchecked. It would also be designed to prohibit “renovictions” and rent increases beyond inflation for current tenants. And it could help curb greenhouse gas emissions, and improve quality of life for renters — wins across the board!
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates that a national program like this could improve the quality, comfort, and stability of rental housing for up to 40,000 Canadian renters (and their households) across Canada.
3. Introduce legally binding climate targets, including five-year milestones
We all know that climate change is a serious problem. It was one of the defining issues of the last federal election. Despite this, Canada still isn’t doing enough. The World Health Organization recently reported that Canada will miss its 2030 carbon emissions target by about 15%.
As part of the upcoming budget, we’re asking for the government to create legally binding emissions targets, meaning they will have to put more robust policies in place to reach the targets that are being set, including five-year milestones. These policies include things like better transit, cleaner cities, and preserving green space.
We’ve had decades of unmet promises when it comes to reducing emissions and slowing the climate crisis — and many of those promises were too weak to begin with.
By setting legally binding targets (as promised by the Liberal Party this fall) and basing those targets on a scientifically sound carbon budget, we can better hold this and future federal governments to account and make sure Canada does its fair share to hold climate change below 1.5 degrees. And we get all the added benefits of putting climate change in check, like improved health due to less pollution, preservation of our fragile ecosystems, and less risk of extreme weather events like floods and fires.
4. Implement a national system of universal child care by 2030
A few decades ago, it was more affordable for a parent to stay home until their kids started school. Now, child care is usually between $800 and $1200 per month and young Canadians have to work more just to keep their family afloat.
A national system of universal child care will help make it so that all Canadians can afford to start and raise a healthy family, if they choose. It will also grow the economy by allowing more parents to work, promote gender equality, increase the number of women who are working, and improve the well-being of our children.
There is an internationally recognized minimum for spending on a universal child care system, about 1% of GDP. The 10-year plan outlined by Child Care Now calls for increases in annual spending to achieve this target by 2030 and improve childcare infrastructure, workforce, and affordability. Combined with extended parental leave, this program would save the typical family around $50k over their children’s first five years.
5. Improve current annual reporting on age trends in public finance
At Gen Squeeze, our overarching goal is intergenerational equity, fairness, and solidarity. That means working together to make sure Canadians of all ages — including future generations — have what they need to thrive.
For that to happen, we need to make sure government budgets don’t bias one age group over another, or rob future generations to pay for things today.
Our own research reveals an alarming trend in Canadian budgets where we’re overburdening and underinvesting in younger Canadians and future generations, compared to what we used to do. This kind of budget bias may not be intentional, but it’s harmful.
For young Canadians, eliminating these biases means more action and investments on things like housing, family affordability, and climate change. Last year, the government introduced a very basic age breakdown in their annual budget, but we have several requests to improve transparency in this area.
Budgets matter and they seriously affect our lives now and for the future. These policies are a way to start addressing some of the top priority areas to make life better for all Canadians, both in the short- and long-term.
Using our online tool, you can send a message to your MP, relevant cabinet ministers, and to the government’s public budget consultation process. Take five minutes to let your government know that you want a budget that works for all Canadians.