The federal government unveiled its spring budget Tuesday, with a clean economy as the centrepiece, and detailing targeted measures to help Canadians deal with still-high inflation.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled the 255-page budget Tuesday, after signaling for weeks she’d try to strike a balance between fiscal restraint and targeted spending for vulnerable Canadians.
CTVNews.ca has analyzed the documents to identify which line items that, if passed in Parliament, will have the greatest impact on Canadian small businesses, families, students and seniors.
ARE YOU STRUGGLING WITH THE COST OF LIVING?
While inflation has cooled for the second consecutive month — down to 5.2 per cent in February from 5.9 per cent in January after 40-year highs last summer — grocery prices remain high, and recent Nanos Research polling shows the economy and inflation remain among the top issues of concern to Canadians. The Liberals are proposing several key items to help Canadians with the cost of living.
- With the cost of food in stores rising by 10.6 per cent year over year last month according to Statistics Canada, the federal government is proposing a new one-time “grocery rebate.” According to the budget, about 11 million low- and modest-income Canadians would be eligible for the rebate, offered through the GST tax credit system. Eligible couples with two children could receive up to $467 dollars, seniors could see $225, and a single person could be eligible for $234.
- The increase in excise duties on alcoholic products has been capped at 2 per cent for one year, as of April 1. The increase was expected to be more than 6 per cent, and was widely criticized by microbrewers, distillers, and the federal opposition parties .
- The federal government is clamping down on predatory loans, with plans to amend the Criminal Code and cap the amount of interest that can legally be charged at 35 per cent. This is to prevent “predatory lenders” from taking advantage of “some of the most vulnerable people in our communities,” according to the budget.
- The budget also proposes changes to help Canadians access certain benefits, such as increasing the number of people eligible to file their income taxes automatically. According to the federal government, this will help many low-income Canadians who do not currently file their tax returns to access “benefits and support to which they are entitled, such as the Canada Child Benefit and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.”
ARE YOU A STUDENT?
Budget 2023 proposes increasing financial assistance for post-secondary students, and measures to help them pay off their debt, in an attempt to “make the transition from school to working life easier,” because “the federal government knows that the higher cost of living still means that students need support to afford an education.”
Some of the added measures the federal government put in place to help students during the COVID-19 pandemic are set to expire at the end of July, so the new measures in the 2023 budget will come into effect at the beginning of August.
- The budget details plans to increase Canada Student Grants by 40 per cent, which could mean up to $4,200 for full-time students.
- It is raising the Canada Student Loan limit from $210 to $300 weekly.
- It is also waiving the requirement for mature students — classified as aged 22 years or older — to undergo credit screening to qualify for grants and loans for the first time.
ARE YOU PLANNING TO TRAVEL IN THE NEXT YEAR?
Significant travel delays and cancellations both over the summer months and during the 2022 winter holiday season led to frustration from many Canadians, and a massive backlog in traveler complaints to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA). The federal government, meanwhile, has largely laid the blame at the feet of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has vowed to strengthen air passenger rights and improve the travel experience in Canada.
- The budget proposes $1.8 billion over five years to CATSA to “maintain and increase its level of service, improve screening wait times, and strengthen security measures at the airports.”
- Part of the bill, however, will be footed by travelers, who can expect to pay a higher Air Travelers Security Charge. Air passengers on a round-trip domestic flight will pay $19.87, up from the current $14.96, and on international flights the rate will increase from $25.91 to $34.42.
- The budget also proposes changes to the Canada Transportation Act for data sharing initiatives to reduce delays and improve coordination between industry stakeholders.
ARE YOU TRYING TO FIND EASIER ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE?
One of the largest categories of spending in the spring budget is health care, which includes details of the previously announced funding deal between the federal government and the provinces and territories, along with plans to expand the dental care plan. The latter is a central piece of the confidence-and-supply deal between the Liberals and the NDP, which sees the NDP support the Liberals in exchange for progress on certain policies.
- The budget lays out $46.2 billion more than previously earmarked for health care as part of the deal with the provinces and territories in exchange for improvements to patient care and access.
- The budget also lays out plans to expand the Canada Dental Benefit — which currently helps cover the dental care costs of children under 12 — and sets out $13 billion over five years to create a federal dental care plan. The new plan would provide dental care coverage to uninsured Canadians with a family income of less than $90,000 by the end of this year.
- The document also proposes the establishment of an Oral Health Access Fund, which would address “oral health gaps among vulnerable populations” and extend coverage to those living in rural and remote communities.
- The federal government is committing $158.4 million over three years to put in place a suicide prevention hotline, which will come into effect at the end of November, and provide mental health crisis support.
- The government is also committing to amending the Canadian Labor Code to create paid leave for workers in federally regulated sectors who experience loss of pregnancy. The new leave will also apply to parents planning to adopt to have a child through surrogacy, the state’s budget.
- Worth noting: the budget does not include costs for pharmacare, also part of the confidence-and-supply agreement with the NDP. As part of that deal, however, the Liberals have promised to table the legislative framework for a national pharmacare plan before the end of this year.
ARE YOU A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER?
In response to an increase in Canadians using credit cards while they shop, the Liberals are touting plans in the budget to help small business owners, namely by working with certain credit card companies to lower transaction fees.
- Visa and MasterCard have committed to lower fees for small businesses, “while also protecting reward points,” which the state budget will mean more than 90 per cent of credit card-accepting businesses will see their fees reduced by up to 27 per cent.
- The deals with Visa and MasterCard also mean some small businesses will get free access to online fraud and cybersecurity resources.