North

Child care, hydro expansion among federal budget highlights for Yukoners

The latest federal budget is getting praise from some Yukoners, especially when it comes to child care, the environment and hydro projects.

Child care investments 'demonstrates how important this sector is to families,' advocate says

'We need to ensure that there is quality and good daycare for families that choose to have two parents working,' said Kristina Craig, executive director of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

The latest federal budget is getting praise from some Yukoners, especially when it comes to child care, the environment and hydro projects.

Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland unveiled her 739-page budget document on Monday

Part of the proposed national budget promises an investment of roughly $30 billion over five years to help offset the cost of early learning and child care services — something that's long overdue, according to Kristina Craig of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.

"This news, it's good — it demonstrates how important this sector is to families, and it has been a long time coming," she said.

"There's been a recognition that women have a big role to play in the economy, and we need to ensure that there is quality and good daycare for families that choose to have two parents working."

In her budget address, Freeland said the investments in child care will pay for themselves through economic recovery, job creation and social infrastructure. She said women's participation in Canada's workforce has declined to its lowest in two decades as a result of women taking on a disproportionate amount of child care responsibility during COVID-19.

It's hoped it will cut child care costs in half by the end of next year, and by 2025, child care should cost parents just $10 a day. 

Craig says that will be good for families who struggle to make ends meet.

"It will definitely have an impact on people's pocketbooks, for sure."

'Music to our ears'

Aja Mason, director of Yukon Status of Women Council, says the development of and support for a child care system will have huge implications for women, especially those who don't have large incomes.

"Such a huge emphasis on developing a universal child care system across Canada … it's music to our ears. It will have a huge impact on northern women for sure," said Mason.

Advocates have been lobbying for the support for years, but the pandemic has impacted women at a disproportionate rate.

"Since COVID[-19] hit, we've seen more women leaving the workforce … it basically set us back almost 20 years," said Mason.

'Unlocks performance of the whole economy'

Rich Thomson, past chair of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, says the Chamber is happy with the funding to offset the cost of early learning and child care services. 

"It unlocks the performance of the whole economy and I think ... it's a good feature of the budget," said Thomson.

The Chamber is still concerned with government spending, Thomson said, but recognizes the need to help the economy recover from the pandemic.

"There is a lot of individual targeted spending in there so I think it's quite obviously an election budget that is aimed at having a little bit of something for everyone."

Chamber of Mines 'encouraged'

Meanwhile, another part of the budget stuck out for Ed Peart, president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

The budget includes $40.4 million over three years "to support feasibility and planning of hydroelectricity and grid interconnection projects in the North," such as the Atlin Hydro Expansion in Yukon. According to Yukon Energy, that proposed project is expected to add 8.5 megawatts of capacity to Yukon's power grid.

Peart says the chamber is "encouraged" to see that federal investment in the northern grid. 

"That's one thing that the Chamber of Mines is heavily promoting, is the interconnect with the B.C. grid. It's renewable, it's green energy, it achieves the federal and territorial carbon emissions targets, it gets additional load into the Yukon grid, so that mining projects can move forward," he said.

"We're happy to see that. Because really, energy is a massive portion of the mining picture in the Yukon."

Lewis Rifkind of the Yukon Conservation Society says he was surprised to see the Atlin Hydro Project named.

"It's a positive thing, to get a specific line item that actually mentions the hydro project in Atlin," he said.

Proposed investments in protected areas is 'a very positive thing,' said Lewis Rifkind of the Yukon Conservation Society. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Rifkind was also pleased by some other elements of the budget, including a plan to spend $2.3 billion over five years to help achieve a target of 25 per cent protected area in Canada by 2025.

"Now, whether it's parks or something else, that was a bit unclear. But the mere fact that we're talking about 25 per cent protection within four years is great," he said. "It's a very positive thing."

Rifkind said he was skeptical about other items in the budget, though — including investments in carbon capture and storage. He calls such an approach "dubious, at the best of times."

"Much better to focus money on not producing greenhouse gases in the first place, rather than spending a lot of time and effort to try and capture those greenhouse gases at the very end of the industrial process."

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver also issued a statement on Tuesday, saying the federal budget "aligns with Yukon's priorities."

"This federal budget will support our efforts to combat climate change, provide affordable childcare to Yukon families, and give certainty to Yukon businesses who continue to face difficult challenges from COVID-19," Silver's statement reads.

With files from Mike Rudyk, Julien Gignac and Elyn Jones

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