Soup of spending for youth in first Freeland budget

The 2021 federal budget delivered Monday was a budget of many firsts.

It was the first budget the federal government had delivered since spring 2019. 

The budget had major issues to deal with: the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the vaccine rollout tied to it, and the recession brought on by the pandemic. The previous budget was delayed in 2020 in order to focus on the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Titled A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth and Resilience, it has five key themes: Jobs Creation, Small Businesses and Growth, Women and Early Childcare and Learning, Climate Action and a Green Economy and Young Canadians.

Some notable measures of the budget include:

-financial assistance to students, including waiving interest on federal student loans and doubling of Canadian Student grants until 2023

-providing 100,000 new job opportunities and placements over the next two years

-26.4 million to support Indigenous post-secondary education 

-creation of Apprenticeship Service and Digital Adoption Program to help youth connect with small and medium businesses for apprenticeships and internships

-continued funding of the Kids Help Line for mental health support for those aged 5-29

-$100 million over three years to support projects for innovative mental health interventions for populations disproportionally affected by COVID-19

The budget itself showed the impact of the pandemic spending on Canada. Canada is projected to have a budget deficit of $354.2 billion, the largest in Canadian history. The debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to hit 51.2%, the highest in 20 years. The Government of Canada is planning to spend 4.2% of Canada’s GDP to foster the recovery of the recession, with over $101 billion in new spending.

“The budget is about finishing the fight against COVID-19,” said Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Finance as she tabled her budget. “It’s about healing the wounds left by the COVID recession. And it’s about creating more jobs and prosperity for Canadians in the days-and decades-to come.”

This was also the first budget delivered by a female finance minister. Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland, who was appointed to the ministry last summer, is the first female finance minister in Canada’s history. An historic moment in its own right, Minister Freeland decided to take the opportunity to promote the moment for all women. Per the tradition of finance ministers wearing a new pair of shoes to deliver the budget, Freeland used the moment as an opportunity. The shoes she was wearing were by Zvelle, a women-led business in her riding founded by Iranian-Canadian Elle AyoubZadeh in 2015. 

“I am so honored for the opportunity to celebrate this historic moment for women in Canada,” said AyoubZabeh in an Instagram post. “Zvelle is proud to be part of your first budget as Finance Minister.” 

According to federal budget documents, the COVID-19 has adversely impacted young people. “Young people have been isolated at a time normally marked by studying, vibrant, and growing social lives, travel and a variety of crucial work experiences that help them find their path. We cannot let them be a lost generation.” According to Statistics Canada, youth unemployment has been hit hard during the pandemic, spiking as high at 29% in spring last year. 

“Opportunity is coming, growth is coming, jobs are coming,” said Freeland in her budget speech.  “Canadians are ready to recover and we will come roaring back.” 

Zvelle heels worn by Minister Freeland during her first budget. Zvelle is a local small business in Freeland’s riding. Wheeler/2020