The much-anticipated first federal budget from the new Liberal government was unveiled on March 22. To describe the general reactions, they would be “Wow,” “Oh,” and maybe even, “Oh no.”
I was all “Yay!” and this is why.
I am a Chinese-Canadian mother with a university-aged child. I also work for one of the most respected environmental organizations in the country, after a long career in journalism.
For someone with my kind of profile, I tend to want my country to be cleaner, greener and friendlier. I want this because it is good for my health, my child’s health, our lives and his future.
For a decade, people like me were frozen out of the federal government’s national policy equation because our previous federal government was only interested in pushing fossil fuels.
The consequences of this are known: our major trading partners like the U.S. and China have spent the last decade developing their clean-tech industry and green infrastructure. We are grossly behind in this very competitive new economy.
A struggling Canadian economy
As it turns out, our previous government was also reluctant to invest in our infrastructure, while it continued to take in more immigrants.
[W]hile newcomers help our country grow, they also increase demands for housing, transportation and other services.
One thing about accepting more immigrants is that while newcomers help our country grow, they also increase demands for housing, transportation and other services.
We know many new Canadians gained acceptance to our country by paying millions of dollars for investment funds to contribute to the nation’s economy even before they landed.
One would expect that this money would be invested in areas to strengthen our economy, like in our clean-tech sectors and aging infrastructures. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Over a billion of taxpayer dollars were invested in the fossil fuel industry in the form of oil sand subsidies.
As world oil prices plunge, so does our dollar. Today, Canadians struggle in the low-dollar reality and find ourselves stuck, with little room to juggle.
While workers in the oil sands industry are losing their jobs fast, those in the manufacturing sectors are only recently seeing their job prospects improve slightly.
Long overdue attention to First Nations
The investment in our First Nations communities is also commendable.
As immigrants, we came to Canada mostly for better job opportunities, clean water, air and food security.
Unfortunately, these are not always afforded to our Aboriginal Peoples. For those who live on reserves especially, their water supply is often compromised due to irresponsible mining.
When their only source of water is contaminated, they pay with their health and lives.
The new Liberal budget is important to me because it signifies a new direction or even the dawn of a new era.
For generations, our First Nations people have had to see their loved ones, often small children, suffering serious health challenges because their homes were badly built, their water supply was contaminated and hope was always too far to reach.
The $8.4 billion funding for our First Nations communities is long overdue.
Welcoming a new era
The new Liberal budget is important to me because it signifies a new direction or even the dawn of a new era, if you will.
The vision I keep seeing is a huge ocean liner called Canada changing course in the high seas, making waves and making its passengers feel bumpy, disrupted or even unsettled.
But if we take a deep breath and think about it, the reason we feel so shell-shocked by this new budget is because a lot of the big-ticket items were not even addressed by the previous government.
The move to a new and green economy is a reality. Some might even say inevitable.
It would be wonderful if Canadians were served a gradual change, of course, but the 10 years of relying on oil and closing our ears to the call for help from our First Nations people by the Harper government means our journey from here on will likely feel a little bumpier.
Yes, we will have to spend a little time to play catch up, but I know Canadians are resilient and hard working. As long as we work together and support each other, I have no doubt we will make the journey.
Winnie Hwo joined David Suzuki Foundation’s Climate Change Team in 2010 after a long and stellar career in journalism. She is passionate about Canada’s multicultural policy and healthy environment.