Federal budget offers cash to put food on the table, prevent TB

·3 min read

Money to help Canadians put food on the table and for tuberculosis prevention are among the key new northern spending initiatives in the federal government’s budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled the budget in the House of Commons Tuesday.

“Canada is filled with people who can do big things, and I have never been more optimistic about the future of our country than I am today,” Freeland said in a press conference ahead of the budget’s public release.

“At a challenging time, in a challenging world, there’s no better place to be than Canada.”

Following a 2022-23 budget that was heavy on spending for housing, this budget proposes $4 billion over seven years toward the Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing strategy.

Freeland acknowledged this budget contains less funding for housing, while speaking with reporters.

“We spent a lot in the 2022 budget on housing,” she said in French.

“There are measures announced in 2022 that are being put in place right now.”

The budget also allocates $16.2 million over three years toward reducing tuberculosis in Inuit communities.

Helping Canadians pay for food was also a recurring theme throughout the budget.

For the 11 million lowest-income Canadians and families, the budget includes a one-time grocery rebate of $467 for eligible couples with children, $234 for single Canadians without children, and $225 for seniors.

The budget also includes a $10-million top-up on the Local Food Infrastructure Fund, and a $60-million program to help non-profit organizations build the infrastructure that helps produce food or helps people consume it. The five-year program is set to expire in March 2024.

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok and Finance Minister Lorne Kusugak responded to the budget less than two hours after it was tabled.

In a news release, they welcomed certain aspects of the budget applicable to Nunavut, including funding for remote medical and dental services, as well as housing.

“Today’s federal budget announcements contribute to our government’s efforts to improve access to housing and health-care services here in Nunavut,” Akeeagok said.

“We will continue to press for federal commitments that will allow for nation-building investments that further social and economic reconciliation for our Inuit region.”

Many of the other northern references in the budget this year repeat previous federal spending announcements.

For example, the budget report highlighted $40 million that has been allocated to Nunavut for construction of a new deep-water port in Qikiqtarjuaq.

That funding was announced in 2021 by then-Infrastructure minister Catherine McKenna.

The Qikiqtarjuaq port is highlighted in the budget’s section on strengthening Canada’s trade corridors.

“The port will create jobs and economic opportunity by strengthening the territory’s connection to regional and global markets,” the budget report says.

The budget also repeats previously announced funding for Arctic defence, including $38.6 billion over 20 years for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in its mission to protect the North.

However, new funding in the budget’s defence section proposes $40.4 million over five years to establish a North Atlantic Treaty Organization climate change and security centre.

That centre, which would be located in Montreal, would “bring together NATO allies to mitigate the impact of climate change on military activities and analyze new climate change-driven security challenges, such as the implications for Canada’s Arctic,” the budget report said.

Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News