Harper Government's action on Social Services
A letter from the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, Diane Finley
June 1, 2009
Dear Ms. Hawley,
I am pleased to respond to your electronic message of October 17, 2008, which the Office of the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, forwarded to me, concerning the issue of funding for social services. I apologize for this delayed reply.
I have noted your suggestions, and welcome this opportunity to highlight the measures that the Government of Canada is taking to support vulnerable individuals and families, both through our provincial and territorial partnerships and through direct funding.
As you may know, the Canada Social Transfer (CST) is the main federal transfer program providing financial support to the provinces and territories for social assistance and social services, early childhood development, early learning and child care, and post-secondary education. In Budget 2007, as part of restoring fiscal balance, the Government of Canada renewed and strenthened its support, including an additional $800 million for post-secondary education. As a result of the automatic escalator, the CST will continue to grow by 3 percent annually until 2013-2014.
In addition, the Government of Canada has increased the transparency of its transfer funding through the CST by providing information on the notional allocation of federal support among priority areas, including social services. This information can be found on the department of Finance Canada Web site at the following Internet address: http://www.fin.gc.ca/fedprov/cst-eng.asp.
The federal government also understands that investment in affordable housing and homelessness are imortant to support the economic security and well-being of Canadians. I am proud to say that we have invested more money in homelessness and supportive housing initiatives than any other government in Canadian history. Budget 2009 included an investment of $2.1 billion over two yeras to construct and renovate approximately 215,000 social housing units across the country. This includes $1 billion to provide renovations and energy retrofits to existing social housing $600 million to renovate and create new First nation and northern housing and $475 million for the construction of new social housing units for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities. The Homelessness Partnering Strategy took effect April 1, 2007, with annual funding of $134.8 million for two years. It has been extended for two additional years from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2011.
The federal government continues to invest in families and our future, and will help vulnerable Canadians with low incomes, which is especially important as we enter the tough economic situation brought upon us by the global economic downturn. As outlined in the January 2009 budget, Canada's Economic Action Plan, we continue to make significant investments through a range of income support, tax relief and targeted programs for Canadians, including low-income individuals, seniors, families with children, and persons with disabilities. We are also helping Canadians who may find themselves facing new and increased pressures in these tough economic times through improvement to the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) and the National Child Benefit (NCB) Supplement, and through tax relief measures that target low- and middle-income earners. At the same time, we recognize that long-term solutions to these issues require a comprehensive approach. To that end, the Government is investing in people to help build resilience and self-reliance.
In addition to broad-based tax relief, our economic action plan is making significant new investments in helping Canadains with low-incomes. The WITB was introduced in 2007 to make work more rewarding for low- and modest-income Canadians. This $550-million-per-year tax credit provided up to $510 for single individuals and $1,019 for families, and included a supplement of up to $255 for persons with disabilities. In Budget 2009, the Government announced plans to double its investment in the WITB resulting in increased benefits for low-income working Canadians. These improvements are in addition to the Canada Employment Credit, an existing tax credit on employment income of up to $1044 to help working Canadians.
The 2009 budget reflects the Government's commitment to helping Canadians navigate through tough ecconomic times by providing a timely and unprecedented investment of $8.3 billion to strenthen Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, enhance the availability of treaining, and freeze EI premium rates for both 2009 and 2010.
We believe that the family is the building block of society and that one of the most important investments we can make as a country is to help families with the costs of raising their children. Through the NCB, the federal government works with the provinces and territories to provide income support, as well as benefits and services, for low-income families and their children. Altogether, the federal government provides over $13 billion in benefits for families with children through the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB), including the NCB Supplement, the Universal Child Care Benefit and the Child Tax Credit. Budget 2009 includes investment of $230 million in increased payments under the NCB Supplement and the CCTB.
The federal government is currently investing over $9 billion in a range of programs that directly benefit Canadians with disabilities. The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefit, for example, is designed to provide financial assistance to CPP contributors who are unable to work because of a severe and prolonged disability. Through Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities, the Government provides funding to the provinces and territories to help Canadians with disabilities develop skills and secure meaningful, long-term employment.
For families with a child who has a disability, the Government introduced the Registered Disability Savings Plan, effective in 2008, to help parents and others save for the long-term financial security of a child with a severe disability. This is in addition to an expanded and enhanced Child Disability Benefit for families with a child who has a disability.
With respect to Canada's seniors, the Government recognizes that they have spent their lives raising families, saving for their retirement, and building this country. While the income security of seniors is much improved compared to 25 years ago, we know that some of them are still in need. Through the Old Age Security (OAS) program, the federal government provides over $33 billion annually to seniors across Canada. In 2008, the Government passed Bill C-36, making it easier for low-income seniors to receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement payable under the OAS, as then now only need to apply once in order to receive the benefits to which they are entitled. Budget 2009 also includes $325 miliion in targeted tax relief for seniors through enhancement to the Age Credit.
I appreciate this opportunity to provide you with information on some of the steps the Government is taking to strengthen the social safety net and support Canadians with low incomes. I hope that this has been helpful in addressing your concerns.
Thank you for taking the time to write.
The Hon. Diane Finley, P.C., M.P.