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Canada's first feminist budget?

April 4th, 2017 by

3 ways the new gender-based federal budget is addressing challenges facing Canadian women


A feminist budget. A budget for women. Ladies’ day at Parliament? At least it wasn’t available in an array of fashion colours. In today’s marketing parlance, “for women” all too often means a generic product in a jazzy hue marked up to a higher price. 

We called Peky Tsang, tax analyst at TurboTax Canada, for her take on the new federal budget “for women”. According to Peky, three major policy changes do target challenges facing Canadian women.

Taking care of babies 

“This is the big one everyone is talking about,” says Peky. Families may now extend parental leave, from 55% of income over 12 months, to 33% of income over 18 months. 

The cost of infant care under 18 months is higher than toddler care, so an extra six months provides more flexibility to stay at home or split a long leave with a partner. Meanwhile, $7 billion is earmarked for childcare to the provinces, potentially creating 40,000 new subsidized daycare spaces.

“The main thing women need to be aware of is that an 18-month leave could spread across three tax years,” says Peky. “New moms are shocked by their tax bills when deductions during the leave are insufficient. Splitting leave gets even more complicated. We recommend modeling out parental leave scenarios with free online tax software such as TurboTax to sort out the best plan for the family.”

Taking care of parents 

A new caregiving benefit provides up to 15 weeks off work to care for a sick or injured family member. A variety of tax credits have been streamlined into one: “Canada Caregiver Credit”. “The only concern is that many women caring for family members are working part-time and may not meet the threshold to access the new EI benefits,” says Peky.

Having more babies

Up until now, women had to be “medically infertile” to receive tax credit for fertility treatment expenses. To be more inclusive of single women and same-sex couples, anyone may now submit receipts for fertility treatments, retroactive for the past 10 years. 

The budget also expands financial aid for part-time students. “Two-thirds of part-time students are women and four out of five grants to students with kids are women,” says Peky. There are also commitments to address the wage gap, violence against women, leadership training and entrepreneurial support for women. Peky admits she would like to see more details and spending commitments against each of these initiatives, but for now, acknowledges that it’s a step in the right direction. 

The bottom line

“Overall I do think this is a feminist budget,” says Peky. “This is the first budget in our history with a gender statement and the fact we are talking about gender-based analysis in determining government policy is huge progress.”

Jun 28 2017 10:57pm

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