Federal Budget 2023: Small Gains for Children, but More Work to be Done

CCRC Federal 2023 Budget Analysis

Prepared by Kate Butler and Kevin Z.

Children will benefit from some of the new initiatives included in the 2023 Federal Budget, released on March 28, 2023. However, the lack of a coherent policy framework means that children will also continue to fall through the cracks of a patchwork of programs. Pre-budget, the CCRC had urged the government of Canada to take concrete actions to address the many ways that children’s rights continue to be neglected, especially where Indigenous and racialized children, children in poverty, and children with disabilities are concerned, as raised in the recent Review of Children’s Rights in Canada (May 2022). While this budget has some strong pieces that will positively impact the lives of children, there is more that could have been done to ensure that Canadian children realize their rights, including around issues of homelessness and affordable housing, more support for mental health, increased efforts to alleviate food insecurity, and more.

Pre-budget polling of Canadians showed that priorities included the growing generation gap, government intervention in child security around the world, as well as child hunger and poverty here in Canada

Here are some highlights of the budget as it affects children:

  • Grocery rebate: The one-time rebate is expected to deliver $467 directly to a family of four, $234 to a single Canadian without kids. An estimated 11 million Canadian households are expected to receive the boost via the GST tax credit mechanism, and it does not have to be spent on groceries. This will help low income families with rising costs of food, housing, and household necessities. However, there was no announcement of income support that will foster a real sense of security and stability for families with fewer resources. 
  • Primary care and public health on reserves: $5.5 billion for primary care and public health on reserve, distinctions-based mental health support, and non-insured health benefits for First Nations and Inuit, as well as $810.6 million over five years, beginning in 2023-24, to support medical travel and to maintain medically necessary services through the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program, including mental health services, dental and vision care, and medications. This will be a support for young Indigenous people on reserves facing inadequate care for mental and other health issues.
  • Child welfare on reserves in Manitoba and Alberta: $444.2 million over three years, starting in 2022-23, to support Peguis First Nation in Manitoba and Louis BullTribe First Nation in Alberta to exercise jurisdiction over their child welfare systems and make decisions about what is best for their children and families. 
  • Jordan’s Principle: $171 million to ensure First Nations children have access to health-care services under Jordan’s Principle. Both the Band Class settlement and the Jordan’s Principle money have been booked in for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Indigenous advocates have long-asked for Jordan’s Principle to be fully funded and implemented. This will be a step towards that goal.
  • Child Disability Benefit: Over $460 million per year through the Child Disability Benefit provided as a supplement to the Canada Child Benefit for parents of children with severe and prolonged disabilities, providing an average of approximately $2,700 in annual support. Children with disabilities face a wide range of rights violations so this is an important support for families.
  • Health care and affordable dental care: full funding for lower income families: a $13-billion plan to expand dental care to families earning less than $90,000 a year. 
  • Prevention of substance use among young people: $20.2 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, to the Public Health Agency of Canada for a new community-based program to prevent substance use among young people
  • Student grants/loans: A 40 per cent increase to Canada Student Grants which will help other children as they apply for student grants and plan for university and college. In addition, it will raise the interest-free Canada Student Loan limit from $210 to $300 per week of study
  • Education saving for divorced parents: Budget 2023 also proposes to allow divorced or separated parents to open a joint RESP for their children, which will make it easier and more affordable for parents to save for their children’s education.
  • Support for the Canada Child Benefit: CCB payments are projected to decrease 6.6 per cent to $24.5 billion in 2022-23, largely reflecting the end of the COVID-19 temporary supplement for families with young children. CCB payments are then expected to grow by 4.5 per cent in 2023-24 and 7.0 in 2024-25 due to consumer price inflation, to which benefits are indexed, before returning to an average 3.1 per cent growth over the remainder of the forecast.

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