Budget 2023: A Missed Opportunity for Structural Change
Today, Minister Freeland presented the 2023 Federal Budget. After making advances in previous budgets to support charities and nonprofits, it was disappointing to see this critical sector left behind when many organizations are still grappling with the effects of the pandemic and facing a recession. Despite some promising announcements targeted at segments of the nonprofit sector, we were disappointed that the Budget does not include measures that would address chronic issues that impact a sector that provides vital direct services to millions of Canadians in communities across the country. We understand the government’s desire for fiscal restraint, but it is unfortunate to see the government fail to acknowledge the vital role that nonprofits play in our society after the sector was meaningfully included in the last two federal budgets.
Action on long standing recommendations related to the creation of a home in the federal government for charities and nonprofits, improved data on the sector, and the urgent need for core funding were noticeably absent. As a sector with 2.6 million workers, the lack of recognition of charities and nonprofits as a significant employer was evident.
We were heartened to see some commitments of funding to build the capacity of organizations serving Black communities and the disability community. It is absolutely crucial that the government centre equity in core and capacity-building funding to address historical inequities. We hope to see the government maintain and build on these early commitments in the years to come. Additionally, we are interested in learning more about the announcement of new cross-government program effectiveness reviews led by the President of the Treasury Board. We will advocate that the government carry out such a review of the government’s grants and contributions programs so that resources are deployed for the greatest impact, effectiveness and financial sustainability.
Additionally, we were pleased to see the renewal of funding for the Regional Economic Growth Through Innovation program, funding for women’s organizations, reproductive health organizations, arts organizations and minority language organizations, investments in food security infrastructure and improvements to increase accessibility of procurement opportunities. These investments will help many charities and nonprofits serve Canadians. We also welcome investments in Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy.
We are concerned about new measures to “improve financial intelligence information sharing between law enforcement and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and law enforcement and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).” There is credible evidence of anti-Muslim bias within the Research and Analysis Division of the CRA which is currently being reviewed by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. Given this, increasing intelligence sharing between it and law enforcement has the potential to amplify negative and unwarranted impacts on Muslim charities.
We are disappointed that many of the nonprofit sector’s recommendations, such as calls to increase international development spending, supports for 2SLGBTQ+ communities, and the creation of a Canada Mental Health Transfer, were ignored by the government in this budget.
Finally, the government has missed an opportunity to specify the sector’s inclusion in the newly announced measures to lower credit card fees for small businesses. We will seek further information to determine the sector’s eligibility in these relief measures and advocate on the sector’s behalf if necessary because this measure has the potential to positively impact many nonprofits and charities. This omission is yet another example of why we need a home in government to advise on federal policy development that will directly impact our sector.
If the government’s true intention is to build the resilience of the Canadian economy in the face of a possible recession, it also needs to future-proof the community and nonprofit sector. This budget has failed to acknowledge the value and role of our sector and provide targeted measures that could support the sector at a time when demand for services continues to rise and communities increasingly need the nonprofit sector’s support.