ACORN Canada Statement on Budget 2018: A few small steps but a long way to go!

Budget 2018 presents some investments that benefit low and moderate income Canadians. We welcome the proposed legislation to enhance consumer protections by strengthening the FCAC. Our members look forward to hearing more about the planned stakeholder consultations in the coming months. We believe that any consultation should include direct input from low-income communities who are most at risk of predatory lending and badly in need of strengthened consumer protections, and we hope to see this group included as key stakeholders in the consultation process.

 

ACORN members strongly support the creation of a national anti-predatory lending strategy that seeks to harmonize federal and provincial anti-predatory lending practices, and would help tackle inter-jurisdictional challenges and gaps in regulation on predatory lending. ACORN members believe that the Federal Government could facilitate access to fair financial services for lower-income communities, by:

 

  • Mandating the banks to provide access to low interest credit for emergencies;
  • Mandating the banks to provide low interest overdraft protection;
  • Mandating the banks to provide no holds on cheques;
  • Mandating the banks to lower NSF fees from $45-$48 to $10;
  • Supporting alternatives to predatory lenders, such as postal banking and credit union credit products geared towards low- and moderate-income families;
  • Creating a real time national tracking system (or database) to help stop roll over loans;
  • Amending the Criminal Code to lower the maximum interest rate from 60% to 30%.

The government has acknowledged that cost is a barrier to accessing the digital economy, and in Budget 2017, they pledged $13.2million to affordability programs. However, without a mandatory program forcing telecommunications companies to offer high speed, affordable internet, there is no guarantee that these companies will increase affordability for the families who need it. We support the proposed investment to increase rural internet access but we also want to see the Federal Government ensuring that telecoms companies make internet affordable for all low-income Canadians.

 

1.7 million low-income Canadians households are in core housing need, experiencing housing costs over 30% of their pre-tax household income and housing that is inadequate, unsuitable or unaffordable. We need the Federal Government to act now to address the housing affordability crisis, by increasing investment in affordable housing. Social housing repairs will increase the level of safe, affordable housing which is badly needed in our communities. We can't wait until 2019 for this money to flow. We welcome the investment in First Nations housing.

 

We were disappointed that the poverty reduction strategy did not receive funding in this budget. However, ACORN members are happy that the government has committed to eradicating poverty and we look forward to seeing them follow through on this.

 

Budget 2018 offers some modest investments to support low-income workers. ACORN members were pleased to see that the Working Income Tax Benefit (to be renamed as the Canada Workers Benefit) will raise the maximum amount receivable by around $170. This increased benefit will put some much-needed cash into the pockets of our most vulnerable workers. We also support the Government’s move to automatic enrollment, which will ensure more workers receive the benefit they are entitled to. However, ACORN members believe that a national minimum wage of at least $15/hour would go further to address working poverty. We support the proposed $90-million over three years to increase the timeliness of EI benefit payments. ACORN also strongly recommends that the Federal Government:

 

  • Reduces the number of qualifying hours for regular benefits to 360 hours, regardless of who workers are or where they live and work in Canada;
  • Increases the benefits period to 50 weeks;
  • Calculates benefits set at 60 percent of earnings being replaced on a worker's best 12 weeks;
  • Conducts a long-term review of EI and the appeal system.

ACORN welcomes the gender focus of this budget, which proposed pay equity legislation to make pay fairer for women working in the public sector and will provide extra leave for parents under the EI Parental Sharing Benefit. However, the pay equity legislation could do more to benefit women working in low-income, precarious jobs. ACORN members have also called for a universal, $10 a day child care program. This budget did not deliver any significant investment in child care, which would go further to help women and families who are struggling due to sky-high child care costs and lengthy waitlists.

 

Budget 2018 shows that the Federal Government is taking small steps to support low and moderate income Canadians, but we need more from Morneau. We still have a long way to go.