The Liberal government delivered its second budget titled Building a Strong Middle Class, after some delay, and it includes lines that will affect the lives of Islanders on P.E.I. such as funding for ferries, the fishing industry, and young Canadians looking for jobs.
- Budget 2017: Liberals spend on training and innovation while holding line on taxes
- Federal budget 2017: Highlights of Bill Morneau's 2nd budget
- Read the full 2017 budget here
Overall the budget is designed to brace Canadians for a fast-changing global economy and empower women in the workforce, while taking a wait-and-see approach to sweeping changes south of the border.
1. Ferry funding
Budget 2017 proposes to provide $278.3 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, including existing resources, for the continued operations of ferry services in Atlantic Canada. That includes ferries that service the Island between Îles de la Madeleine, QC, and Souris, P.E.I. and between Wood Islands, P.E.I., and Caribou, N.S.
2. Small craft harbours
An additional $5 million in 2017–18 is budgeted for Fisheries and Oceans Canada to support the Small Craft Harbours Program. In last year's budget the federal government invested $149 million over two years for small craft harbour infrastructure improvements.
The network of small craft harbours supports the fishing industry and coastal communities across Canada, including P.E.I. The harbours are part of a broader transportation system and are relied on by both commercial and recreational users.
3. Temporary Foreign Worker Program
The federal government intends to make improvements to the two programs that govern the entry of temporary foreign workers into Canada. It said in the 2017 budget document it wants to ensure that Canadian workers are always considered first for available jobs, while giving Canadian employers the opportunity to hire temporary foreign workers to fill jobs where labour shortages have been proven.
The government has budgeted $279.8 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, and $49.8 million per year thereafter, to support the continued delivery of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program.
Industries on the Island, including seafood processors, use temporary foreign workers when not enough local workers can be found.
The exemption to the cap on the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers employed by firms in seasonal industries has been extended for 2017 as well. The cap remains at 20 per cent of an employer's workforce.
4. Supporting Indigenous fisheries
The 2017 budget proposes to provide $250 million over five years, and $62.2 million thereafter, to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to renew and expand the successful Pacific and Atlantic integrated commercial fisheries initiatives.
The funding is intended to create more jobs in Indigenous communities and create opportunities for Indigenous women and families to succeed, while supporting the sustainability of aquatic resources and ocean habitats.
5. Home care and mental health
The government has offered $1 billion over four years to provinces and territories, starting in 2018–19, for home care infrastructure to help more Canadians receive the care they need outside of a hospital setting. P.E.I has accepted the federal offer, along with other territories and provinces, and will receive its share of the home care infrastructure investment. In total, the government will invest $11 billion over 10 years to support better home care and mental health initiatives.
Provincial and territorial governments are working to develop agreements on performance indicators and mechanisms for annual reporting to citizens, as well as a detailed plan on how the funds will be spent, over and above existing programs. The 2017 budget document said success in this area would include more patients receiving better care at home or in the community, shortened wait times for mental health services to help children and young persons under the age of 25 in need of support, and improved accountability to Canadians through reporting on new home care and mental health investments in the health care system.
6. Employment and young Canadians
The budget proposes spending $395.5 million over three years to expand the youth employment strategy. It's also budgeted $50 million over two years for teaching initiatives to help children learn to code.
Some Islanders may benefit from a new Employment Insurance caregiving benefit, to help eligible Canadians caring for critically ill or injured family members.
Just over $691 million is budgeted over five years to expand the caregiver benefit for Canadians supporting critically ill and injured family members, to create a new EI caregiving benefit of up to 15 weeks. The new benefit will cover a broader range of situations where individuals are providing care to an adult family member who requires significant support in order to recover from a critical illness or injury. Parents of critically ill children will continue to have access to up to 35 weeks of benefits, with additional flexibility to share these benefits with more family members.
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