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Federal Budget 2023 Analysis

The federal government tabled Budget 2023 on March 28th.  Roughly 70 per cent of the $43 billion in net new spending announced in this year's budget is earmarked for health and dental care over the next six years. The remainder is largely made up of a variety of tax credits to encourage companies to adopt clean technology and to help low-income Canadians during the affordability crisis.

Entitled “A Made-in-Canada Plan”, this is a likely response to pressure to compete with the Biden administration in the United States which has invested billions through its Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPs and Sciences Act.

Compete, on science and research, this budget does not.

Whereas the US legislation invested significantly in the National Science Foundation, for example, there is very little for science and research in Canada’s budget.

The College and Community Innovation Program, an applied research program administered by the National Science and Engineering Research Council, will see a bump of $108.6 million over three years, less than half of what was requested by the college sector.

There is also $59 million for the renewal of federal science and technology infrastructure as part of the Laboratories Canada program.

The budget references the recent Advisory Panel Report on Federal Research Support  but makes no additional commitments to the granting councils. This is despite intense pressure to build on the “research” budget of 2018 and up graduate student scholarships and fellowships which have not increased for almost twenty years.

Students overall saw $813.6 million in affordability measures in this budget, following on the Fall Economic Statement which eliminated interest on federal student loans. Calls to make permanent the pandemic doubling of the Canada Student Grant were only partially answered.  Budget 2023 commits to a 40 per cent increase to Canada Student Grants, raising the maximum grant to $4200 from the $3000 pre-pandemic amount.  To compensate for the $1800 drop in grant money that students will experience this year, Budget 2023 increases student loan limits, which will drive up student debt.  

Budget 2023 also increases limits on certain RESP withdrawals from $5,000 to $8,000 for full-time students, and from $2,500 to $4,000 for part-time students. The Canada Student Loan Forgiveness program will be expanded for eligible doctors and nurses who choose to practice in rural and remote communities. As well, the Student Work Placement Program will receive $197.7 million in 2024-25 to continue creating work-integrated learning opportunities.

Youth programs and skills training will be reviewed by Budget 2024, to determine what improvements can be made to help more Canadians develop the skills and receive the work experience they need to have successful careers.

Labour made some gains in addition to the national dental plan. Of note are proposed changes to the Canada Labour Code. While these apply for federally regulated workers, the changes can put positive upward pressure on provincial labour standards.  Budget 2023 promises:

  • Improved job protections for gig workers by strengthening prohibitions against employee misclassification.
  • A new stand-alone leave for workers who experience a pregnancy loss. This new leave will also apply to parents planning to have a child through adoption or surrogacy.
  • Improved eligibility for leave related to the death or disappearance of a child.
  • The prohibition of the use of replacement workers during a strike or lockout.

A small window of possible funding support for universities and colleges in Budget 2023 is a $117 million commitment to the Action Plan for Official Languages, to support the training of bilingual nurses and personal support care workers and the promotion of French-language research, among other things.

For universities and colleges, which have not seen a notional increase to core funding since federal budget 2007, this budget is loud in its silence.  Other areas of public importance, such as pharmacare and housing, are also out in the cold in this recession-facing budget. CAUT will continue to advocate with the federal government the value of investing in public post-secondary education to create a “strong middle class, affordable economy [and a] healthy future” – the stated goals of this year’s budget.

CAUT will also continue to push for the government to act on its commitment to protect public post-secondary institutions from corporate restructuring. This promise was made by the Liberals following the Laurentian debacle and is reflected in the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry mandate letter.

Please take 2 minutes to send a letter to the Minister calling for action to remove public post-secondary institutions from corporate restructuring, by excluding them from the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.