Oxfam Canada response to House of Commons Finance Committee pre-budget consulation report

January 4, 2017

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance released its report Creating the Conditions for Growth: Tools for People, Business and Communities on December 7, 2016. The report captures the testimony and recommendations of 293 witnesses and 445 briefs. As a result, the Finance committee made 81 concrete recommendations to the government of Canada, with dissenting opinions by the Conservative party and the NDP.

During its testimony, Oxfam called on the government of Canada to become a global leader in tackling the twin struggles of gender and economic inequality, particularly by making work paid, equal and valued for women. Oxfam is pleased to see that close to all of Oxfam’s recommendations in the areas of taxation, public services, labour and international assistance are highlighted in the report. Unfortunately, Oxfam’s recommendations are less reflected in the 81 recommendations by the committee to the Government of Canada.

While we appreciate recommendation 79 calling on the Government of Canada to consider the effects of federal policy decisions on particular groups, including women, overall the recommendations of the committee fall short in recognizing that women have not benefitted equally from economic growth and that specific measures are needed to ensure they do. Now is the time for the Government of Canada to ensure that quality gender-based analysis is done across all departments and gender budgeting becomes the norm. Canada is one of a few OECD countries that has not enacted gender budgeting.

A comprehensive set of policies is required to address the unequal economics of women’s work. The committee’s recommendation to “improve access to child care in order to help fulfill the government’s promises to invest social infrastructure” is a good first step, but does not go far enough in addressing some of the structural obstacles. Women require living wages, decent jobs and equal pay and opportunities than men. While the Government of Canada has committed to enact pay equity legislation in 2018, this should happen much sooner considering several comprehensive studies have been conducted with specific recommendations on steps forward.

We particularly welcome the committee’s recommendation to increase “investments in official development assistance with the goal of investing 0.35% of gross domestic product within the next three to four years.” Considering that Canada’s ODA currently stands at 0.28%, a 0.7% increase in the next three years could provide significant resources to alleviate poverty across the world. Considering the feminist aspirations of this government in Canada and abroad, Budget 2017 provides an excellent opportunity to turn words into actions and provide the resources needed to ensure work is paid, equal and valued for women everywhere.

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