The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour (NLFL) said the federal budget is mostly positive for this province in spite of some disappointments.
NLFL president Mary Shortall said one of the most beneficial parts of the budget for the province is the creation of an advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare in order to explore ways to establish a national drug program.
“That’s a really important victory for us as a labour movement,” she said. “What we’ll be pushing with government now … is that it needs to be universal, and that the 12.5 million Canadians that don’t have access to drugs now through a healthcare program will be able to do that after that’s over, so that’s a really positive gain in our estimation.”
Shortall said she is pleased to see the government understands it needs to spend money in order to narrow gaps in equality. She points to the proactive pay legislation, employment insurance benefits for non-birthing parents, and paid leave for people experiencing domestic violence as positive moves forward to eliminate those inequalities.
“But one of the bigger disappointments was around childcare because our position is if you’re talking about real equality then you need to address the things that are the best benefits to getting more women active in the workforce,” she said. “It was disappointing to see them not commit to a universal childcare program and to not really even commit to more spending other than what they had promised in previous budgets.”
Shortall said she was also disappointed to not see anything in the budget around creating a federal minimum wage.
But another bright spot in the budget for Shortall is improvements to employment insurance, which she says will be positive for many people in the province. The budget took a pilot project around working while on claim and made it permanent, as well as extended it to include people who are on sick leave and maternity leave.
“That will allow them to earn a little bit more money while they’re on claim.”
Shortall said the NLFL’s task now is to make sure government follows through with the budget promises.
“We’re going to have to stay very active to make sure that we hold government’s feet to the fire on it, and there’s some really big things missing, like childcare, and those are the issues that we’re going to have to keep fighting for.”