Beyond Productivity: Promoting the Well-being of Canadians

Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations
August 2017
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Budgets reflect values and priorities. They express what is worthy of attention and determine how resources are allocated. In doing so, budgets have the power shape the future.

It is essential to start budget discussions with what matters most: personal well-being, social cohesion, and a healthy environment. This is the essence of public justice: the political dimension of loving one’s neighbour, caring for creation and achieving the common good.

From this perspective, we have serious misgivings about the questions suggested to frame these consultations. Focusing the budget discussion narrowly on productivity and competitiveness diminishes Canadians to our economic “value” as workers. This framework fails to account for personal fulfilment, community well-being, and ecological integrity. And, it ignores the importance and benefits of connection, culture, and creativity.

It is worth noting that a society in which citizens and residents are valued as whole people – for their role as citizens, parents, neighbours, and friends – is also a more productive society. The opposite, however, does not hold true. If we only strive for productivity, our society will not necessarily foster health, happiness, and security among its citizens.

Social and environmental concerns must determine our economic goals – and our methods of achieving them. The success and strength of society should not be measured solely by economic indicators. It needs to include personal well-being, social cohesion, and a healthy environment.

Drawing on CPJ’s recent submissions to consultations on climate change, housing, and poverty reduction, and our work on refugees, we have developed a number of recommendations for Budget 2018 focused on human and ecological flourishing.

CPJ’s recommendations for Budget 2018:

  1. Allocate $5.59 billion annually in new spending as a downpayment on the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy, beginning in 2018.
  2. Address the long-standing inequities in funding models for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, with an annual investment of $2.2 billion for education, infrastructure, and professional development.
  3. Immediately end all subsidies to the fossil fuel sector for a savings of $1.5 billion annually, make strategic investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and skills development; and set a course for decarbonization by 2050.
  4. Devote $385 million in 2018 to accelerate the processing of private refugee sponsorship applications, and make adjustment to other policies and programs to better support refugee resettlement.