Budget 2017 confirmed that the federal government has negotiated bilateral health agreements with provincial and territorial jurisdictions, with the exception of Manitoba, rather than establishing a new Health Accord (p. 157). Budget 2017 claimed that there will be a new transfer of money to the provinces and territories that have agreed to the bilateral deals and that the federal government will provide a “down payment” on investments in home care and mental health. Alongside the bilateral deals, individual provincial and territorial governments will have to provide a plan to the federal government regarding how they will spend funds, and they must deliver performance indicators.
The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) increased in last year’s budget, and Budget 2017 presented the results of this increase. The increases to the GIS have helped 750,000 single seniors; they now receive an additional $947/year. Budget 2017 evaluated policies through a gendered lens, and single seniors assisted by this increase are disproportionately women. No new promises were included in Budget 2017.
Demand a Plan reported last year that although compassionate care benefits were not included in Budget 2016, the Liberal government committed to investing in greater employment insurance benefits. Employment insurance benefits were indeed expanded in Budget 2017 to include a new caregiving benefit to help Canadians care for critically ill or injured family members. In addition, Budget 2017 indicated that the government would seek to provide $691.3 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, and $168.1 million per year afterwards to create a new caregiving benefit for up to 15 weeks. This benefit will cover those caring for family members.
As previously mentioned, although the federal government did not create a new Health Accord and struck bilateral deals with most provincial and territorial governments, the investments within the bilateral deals focus on home care and mental health. The government proposed to invest $11 billion in home care over 10 years across the provinces and territories, which may not be enough to make a difference.
Budget 2017 did not include funding for palliative care. However, some Members of Parliament (MPs) are trying to put forward a national palliative care strategy (Bill C-277).
Budget 2017 included innovation with respect to prescription medicines (p. 158). The Liberal government proposed to lower drug prices and support prescribing by investing $140.3 million over five years starting in 2017–18. It also proposed to allocate $18.2 million per year to Health Canada, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board and the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health.
Budget 2017 also promised that the federal government would continue to support the adoption of electronic medical records across Canada and the expansion of e-prescribing. As such, the Budget promised that the federal government would invest $300 million in Canada Health Infoway. The government hopes that the adoption of electronic medical records and e-prescribing will also help to reduce the abuse of prescription opioids.
Budget 2017 emphasized the important role of informal caregivers in the care of injured veterans who leave military service. The budget proposed to create a Caregiver Recognition Benefit for modern-day veterans to replace the Family Caregiver Relief Benefit. The Caregiver Recognition Benefit will provide a non-taxable monthly benefit of $1,000 directly to caregivers (p. 176–177).
In terms of helping veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Budget 2017 proposed to create a Centre of Excellence on PTSD and other mental health conditions. Staff at the centre would be well versed in the prevention, assessment and treatment of PTSD for Canadian Armed Forces members. The federal government intends to invest $17.5 million over four years beginning next year and $9.2 million each year thereafter (p. 178). Budget 2017 did not mention first responders.
There was no mention of a Seniors Price Index in Budget 2017; however, changes to the GIS were included, as mentioned above.
This promise was implemented in Budget 2016; therefore, Budget 2017 did not address the Old Age Security benefit.
In Budget 2016, the government announced phase one of its social infrastructure plan. It included investing in public transit, water and wastewater systems, affordable housing and community health care facilities on reserve. Budget 2017 attempted to build on phase one by improving the quality of life in Indigenous communities and creating a National Housing Strategy, among other social infrastructure initiatives (p. 116). Although the budget did not include a dollar amount, it claimed that the Fall Economic Statement included $81 billion in infrastructure investments beginning in 2017–18.
As previously mentioned, Budget 2017 announced that the government will be investing in a National Housing Strategy. Within this strategy are promises to invest $2.2 billion over two years in affordable housing; seniors could benefit from this investment.
Further, in Budget 2017 the federal government proposed to give $3.2 billion over 11 years to provinces and territories to support affordable housing initiatives. Budget 2017 mentioned that these initiatives could include rent subsidies and independent living for seniors or those with disabilities. Budget 2017 attempted to tackle affordable housing as a whole, not specifically in terms of seniors.
Budget 2017 indicated that the federal government will make investments in mental health services to help veterans but also all Canadians. The bilateral agreements that the federal government negotiated with most provinces and territories included a focus on mental health initiatives. Specifically, the government proposed to invest $11 billion over 10 years for mental health and home care services. Again, there was no mention of first responders in the budget.
Although Budget 2017 did not specifically indicate if the government will invest $100 million each year, it outlined steps towards helping veterans’ families. There will be increased support for informal caregivers for veterans, as well as investments in vocational rehabilitation programs for survivors and spouses. In addition, Budget 2017 recognized the role families play in assisting veterans; the government promised to invest $147 million over six years and $15 million per year after that to support Military Family Resource Centres for families of veterans medically released from the Canadian Armed Forces from April 2018 onward.