A federal budget is our government’s opportunity to outline their priorities. It’s how and when they tell us what they are putting at the top of their to-do list. Here are seven things the team at FoodShare is hoping to see on Monday April 19, 2021 when the latest federal budget drops:
END BOIL WATER ADVISORIES
There is no food without water. We need to start with honouring the commitment to end long-term boil water advisories by 2021. It’s 2021, and today we have 52 long term drinking water advisories in effect in 33 communities across Canada. The budget needs to uphold this commitment and allocate what it takes to get the job done. This is exceptionally important given the disproportionate rates of both food insecurity and COVID-19 experienced by Indigenous communities across the country.
IMPLEMENT PAID SICK DAYS
We need to acknowledge that many provincial governments are not stepping up with paid sick leave, and the federal program is insufficient. Provincially mandated paid sick days would apply directly to a worker’s paycheck, whereas the federal CRSB is paid out like employment insurance; it must be applied for and workers are paid out weeks after they have missed income. People need paid sick days now and we can’t wait for governments to sort out “jurisdiction” over this issue. Currently, only 42% of workers in Canada have access to paid sick leave, and that number drops to only 10% for low wage workers, despite many of them having been deemed “essential” during this lockdown.
PRIORITISE AFFORDABLE HOUSING
1.6 million households in Canada are currently living in unaffordable, unsuitable, or inadequate housing. The demand for affordable housing is far outpacing the availability of affordable units, and the cost of housing continues to rise in communities that already experience high rates of food insecurity. To be able to effectively address this crisis, cities like Toronto need to see immediate and significant increases of federal funding for the expedited construction of safe, decent, permanent and affordable housing.
INVEST IN BLACK FOOD SOVEREIGNTY
The federal investment in B3 (Black-led, Black-focused and Black-serving) organizations has been rightfully identified as miniscule, sporadic, and unsustained. In 2019 FoodShare partnered with PROOF to critically examine the data on household food insecurity to look specifically at the experiences of Black and white households. Our report found that while 1 in 8 households in Canada are food insecure, when looking more closely at race, 10% of white households are food insecure, while more than 28% of Black households experience food insecurity.
This data confirms what we have long known to be true, that anti-Black racism is one of the greatest predictors of food insecurity for Black households in Canada. To address anti-Black racism and food insecurity in meaningful ways, we must see investment from the federal government into Black food sovereignty.
SUPPORT AND PROTECT MIGRANT FOOD SYSTEM WORKERS
The food system today is built and on, and maintained by, the exploitation of Black and brown workers. To see real food justice in action, we need to the federal government to invest money to support and protect all migrant workers, including undocumented workers. We need progressive policy that bolsters the social safety net, ensures that migrant workers have access to the benefits they pay into, and provides pathways to permanent residency for all migrants. If what is considered immigration investment is more funding for the Canada Border Services Agency and intensified border enforcement, we don’t want it.
GUARANTEE LIVABLE INCOMES ($15/HOUR MINIMUM WAGE)
We know that 65% of Canadians who experience food insecurity have jobs. Everyone has the right to feed themselves and their loved ones with dignity and joy – regardless of their participation in the labour market – but there are people in this country working full time jobs who are unable to feed their families.
This government campaigned on a promise of setting the federal minimum wage at $15/hr in 2020, that would rise with inflation. Not only has this not been delivered, it is already insufficient. The Living Wage Network sets the living wage for Toronto at $22.08/hour. We want to see federal policies that set income supports and wages at levels that are livable for people in our city.
SET AMBITIOUS EMISSIONS REDUCTION TARGETS
We will not be able to self-isolate or vaccinate when it comes to the crisis of climate change.
We want to see investments in emissions reduction targets that are ambitious and that acknowledge those that will be most affected by climate change (racialized communities, Northern communities, and low-income communities). This looks like 60% reductions by 2030 — double what the current government has set as a target.