Federal 2017 Budget Spends Big On Housing And Caregiving

Caregivers, those in need of affordable housing, older workers and unemployed workers were the big winners in the Liberal’s 2017 Federal Budget, which was tabled in the House of Commons last week.

As Budgets go, this one was a lot of talk but not much of it backed up by spending, perhaps because the economy remains stalled and there’s a distinct lack of revenue.

But, as always, there were a few headline-grabbing measures, including:

  • increase in taxes on alcohol and cigarettes (No surprise: the government will also look into ways to tax marijuana.)
  • Uber rides become more expensive  (Budget forces us pay HST/GST on all car-sharing services)
  • transit passes become more expensive (thanks to the government cutting the tax credit on monthly passes)
  • Good-bye to Canada Savings Bonds (not enough interest among public)

It’s obvious that Finance Minister Bill Morneau—who said his second Budget was aimed at “everyday folks” who “work hard to provide for their families” – has been instructed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not to worry about spending. The Liberals are projecting a $28 billion shortfall, dwarfing the $10 billion that the Liberals promised in their election campaign. Don’t say Stephen Harper didn’t warn you.

Among the budget items that will interest older Canadians:

  • It’s now easier to apply for the disability tax credit. Before, you needed a doctor to fill out the approval form. Now, a nurse can perform the same function.
  • Canada Caregiver Credit: this combines the old Caregiver Credit, Infirm Dependant Credit and Family Caregiver Tax Credit into a single new credit. This new (non-refundable) credit will apply to caregivers whether or not they live with their family member.
  • $11 billion dedicated to affordable housing. Seniors and vets identified as vulnerable groups prioritized for national housing funding.
  • The expansion of EI. It now includes support for those caring for critically ill loved ones, as well as those who are terminally ill. The new benefit provides up to 15 weeks of EI coverage which can be added to the 26 weeks given to family caregivers after a critically ill family member’s condition worsens.
  • Homecare boost: Budget commits $6 billion over 10 years to help provinces

Although generally pleased with the spending measures for older Canadians, CARP‘s Wanda Morris felt the Liberals didn’t go far enough. “We’re disappointed that the new Canadian Caregiver Credit continues to be non-refundable—that is, only available to offset taxes otherwise payable—so there is no relief for the poorest caregivers or those who give up all paid work to care for loved ones.”

Morris also felt the Liberals missed huge opportunity by failing to remove the mandatory withdrawal limits on RRIFs. “At a time of unprecedented longevity and historically low interest rates,” says Morris, “It is deeply disappointing the government hasn’t eliminated mandatory RRIF withdrawals to help Canadian seniors enjoy sustained retirement security.”