OTTAWA, March 22, 2016 /CNW/ - Today's federal budget marks a good start, but much work remains, and Canada's largest union in the private sector is urging the government to move quickly to develop long-term programs to revitalize the economy – including investing in Canada's auto and aerospace sectors.
"It makes sense for this first budget to emphasize projects and programs where the money can flow right away, but Canadian families need longer term solutions on which they can build their futures," Unifor National President Jerry Dias said.
"We are disappointed that there were no changes made to the Automotive Investment Fund, beyond extending it another three years, and no mention of the vital aerospace industry beyond the space program," Dias said.
Dias said Unifor will play an active role in the review of the Automotive Investment Fund announced in the budget, and urged the federal government to replace the fund's current system of taxable loans in the auto sector with a program that is non-taxable and not loan-based.
"The industry consensus is that this is the way to go, and all levels of government need to recognize this if Canada is to continue having a strong auto sector, our largest exporter," Dias said.
Dias said no plan to help Canada's middle class is complete without investments in both auto and aerospace.
"A strategic investment in aerospace leader Bombardier would meet many of the goals set out in this budget: supporting innovation and greening the economy," Dias said.
Dias welcomed news of the reopening and expansion of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, as well as investments in public transit and to revitalize VIA Rail and improve rail safety. Dias said plans to improve training programs, including working with unions to expand apprenticeship programs, are also welcomed.
Improvements to the Employment Insurance program, such as shortening the waiting period and added benefits for workers hit by the drop in oil prices, will help those workers find good jobs and provide stability for their communities, Dias said. Dias also welcomed the budget's allocation of $89.9 million to build 3,000 women's shelter spaces, saying the move will make it easier for more women to escape violence.
An announcement of an increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement for single retirees, coupled with lowering the eligibility age for Old Age Security and continued discussions to expand the Canada Pension Plan, will help ensure more Canadians are able to retire with dignity, Dias said.
Many of the budget's announcements are based on quick solutions to get money out the door quickly – such as infrastructure investments that emphasize maintenance and repairs, with larger projects to come in a second phase – with promises to consult with other levels of government and stakeholders on future measures.
"The words consult and consultation appear throughout this budget. It's always good to consult, of course, but the needs of Canadians are real and immediate and must be addressed quickly," Dias said.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.