Hamilton social activists praise federal budget

News Mar 22, 2016 by Steve Arnold The Hamilton Spectator

Veterans, seniors, people needing social housing, students, the unemployed and even artists will all find something to cheer about in Justin Trudeau's first budget.

On the social spending side of the ledger, the budget tabled Tuesday promises more support to get injured veterans back to work, more social housing units, money for the CBC and other cultural institutions, top-ups to public pensions, changes to the Child Care Benefit and higher student grants.

"He is really spreading the sunshine around with this budget," said McMaster University business professor Marvin Ryder. "I can't remember seeing a more wide-ranging budget in the last decade."

Among its social provisions:

• $3.4 billion over five years to lift low-income single seniors out of poverty by increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for single seniors starting in July. The budget also confirms eligibility age of Old Age Security will be restored to 65;

• $1.9 billion over five years to support arts and culture organizations and cultural infrastructure, including $675 million for the CBC and $550 million over five years for the Canada Council for the Arts;

• The Disability Award for injuries or illnesses resulting from or worsened by military service will be increased, as will the Earnings Loss Benefit to provide income replacement of 90 per cent of gross pre-release military salary for injured veterans;

• the Canada Summer Jobs program for students will be doubled, an expert panel on youth employment will be created, and the Youth Employment Strategy will be enhanced to make it easier for young workers to break into the workforce;

• the Employment Insurance program will be revamped to make it easier for people to qualify. The waiting period to collect benefits will be reduced from two weeks to one;

• the new Canada Child Benefit will provide a maximum annual benefit of up to $6,400 per child under the age of 6, and up to $5,400 per child aged 6 through 17. Payments to families will begin in July.

Those initiatives drew praise from activists who say 10 years of Conservative budgets have left the country with a desperate social deficit.

"There's just so much good news here, we haven't seen a budget like this in a long time," said Deirdre Pike, of the Social Planning and Research Council. "(Trudeau) has already done so much to lift the morale of the country. People can feel proud to be Canadian again."

Pike was especially supportive of pension changes for seniors, cultural industry investments and EI changes.

"The EI system now just puts hurdle after hurdle in front of people and drives them onto Ontario Works," she said. "This budget is going to make it so much easier for people to get help as they transition from one job to another."

Tom Cooper, of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, also welcomed the EI changes, saying that under the current system barely one in five unemployed people in Hamilton are getting benefits.

"Pushing people onto welfare leaves people living in the deepest kind of poverty in the country," he said.

Cooper also welcomed changes to the national Child Care Benefit, noting that will help lift families out of the poverty cycle.

"Children live in poverty because their parents don't have the income they need," he said. "This will really help level the playing field."

sarnold@thespec.com

905-526-3496 | @arnoldatTheSpec

Hamilton social activists praise federal budget

News Mar 22, 2016 by Steve Arnold The Hamilton Spectator

Veterans, seniors, people needing social housing, students, the unemployed and even artists will all find something to cheer about in Justin Trudeau's first budget.

On the social spending side of the ledger, the budget tabled Tuesday promises more support to get injured veterans back to work, more social housing units, money for the CBC and other cultural institutions, top-ups to public pensions, changes to the Child Care Benefit and higher student grants.

"He is really spreading the sunshine around with this budget," said McMaster University business professor Marvin Ryder. "I can't remember seeing a more wide-ranging budget in the last decade."

Among its social provisions:

• $3.4 billion over five years to lift low-income single seniors out of poverty by increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for single seniors starting in July. The budget also confirms eligibility age of Old Age Security will be restored to 65;

• $1.9 billion over five years to support arts and culture organizations and cultural infrastructure, including $675 million for the CBC and $550 million over five years for the Canada Council for the Arts;

• The Disability Award for injuries or illnesses resulting from or worsened by military service will be increased, as will the Earnings Loss Benefit to provide income replacement of 90 per cent of gross pre-release military salary for injured veterans;

• the Canada Summer Jobs program for students will be doubled, an expert panel on youth employment will be created, and the Youth Employment Strategy will be enhanced to make it easier for young workers to break into the workforce;

• the Employment Insurance program will be revamped to make it easier for people to qualify. The waiting period to collect benefits will be reduced from two weeks to one;

• the new Canada Child Benefit will provide a maximum annual benefit of up to $6,400 per child under the age of 6, and up to $5,400 per child aged 6 through 17. Payments to families will begin in July.

Those initiatives drew praise from activists who say 10 years of Conservative budgets have left the country with a desperate social deficit.

"There's just so much good news here, we haven't seen a budget like this in a long time," said Deirdre Pike, of the Social Planning and Research Council. "(Trudeau) has already done so much to lift the morale of the country. People can feel proud to be Canadian again."

Pike was especially supportive of pension changes for seniors, cultural industry investments and EI changes.

"The EI system now just puts hurdle after hurdle in front of people and drives them onto Ontario Works," she said. "This budget is going to make it so much easier for people to get help as they transition from one job to another."

Tom Cooper, of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, also welcomed the EI changes, saying that under the current system barely one in five unemployed people in Hamilton are getting benefits.

"Pushing people onto welfare leaves people living in the deepest kind of poverty in the country," he said.

Cooper also welcomed changes to the national Child Care Benefit, noting that will help lift families out of the poverty cycle.

"Children live in poverty because their parents don't have the income they need," he said. "This will really help level the playing field."

sarnold@thespec.com

905-526-3496 | @arnoldatTheSpec

Hamilton social activists praise federal budget

News Mar 22, 2016 by Steve Arnold The Hamilton Spectator

Veterans, seniors, people needing social housing, students, the unemployed and even artists will all find something to cheer about in Justin Trudeau's first budget.

On the social spending side of the ledger, the budget tabled Tuesday promises more support to get injured veterans back to work, more social housing units, money for the CBC and other cultural institutions, top-ups to public pensions, changes to the Child Care Benefit and higher student grants.

"He is really spreading the sunshine around with this budget," said McMaster University business professor Marvin Ryder. "I can't remember seeing a more wide-ranging budget in the last decade."

Among its social provisions:

• $3.4 billion over five years to lift low-income single seniors out of poverty by increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for single seniors starting in July. The budget also confirms eligibility age of Old Age Security will be restored to 65;

• $1.9 billion over five years to support arts and culture organizations and cultural infrastructure, including $675 million for the CBC and $550 million over five years for the Canada Council for the Arts;

• The Disability Award for injuries or illnesses resulting from or worsened by military service will be increased, as will the Earnings Loss Benefit to provide income replacement of 90 per cent of gross pre-release military salary for injured veterans;

• the Canada Summer Jobs program for students will be doubled, an expert panel on youth employment will be created, and the Youth Employment Strategy will be enhanced to make it easier for young workers to break into the workforce;

• the Employment Insurance program will be revamped to make it easier for people to qualify. The waiting period to collect benefits will be reduced from two weeks to one;

• the new Canada Child Benefit will provide a maximum annual benefit of up to $6,400 per child under the age of 6, and up to $5,400 per child aged 6 through 17. Payments to families will begin in July.

Those initiatives drew praise from activists who say 10 years of Conservative budgets have left the country with a desperate social deficit.

"There's just so much good news here, we haven't seen a budget like this in a long time," said Deirdre Pike, of the Social Planning and Research Council. "(Trudeau) has already done so much to lift the morale of the country. People can feel proud to be Canadian again."

Pike was especially supportive of pension changes for seniors, cultural industry investments and EI changes.

"The EI system now just puts hurdle after hurdle in front of people and drives them onto Ontario Works," she said. "This budget is going to make it so much easier for people to get help as they transition from one job to another."

Tom Cooper, of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, also welcomed the EI changes, saying that under the current system barely one in five unemployed people in Hamilton are getting benefits.

"Pushing people onto welfare leaves people living in the deepest kind of poverty in the country," he said.

Cooper also welcomed changes to the national Child Care Benefit, noting that will help lift families out of the poverty cycle.

"Children live in poverty because their parents don't have the income they need," he said. "This will really help level the playing field."

sarnold@thespec.com

905-526-3496 | @arnoldatTheSpec