Liberal Black Caucus gives federal budget thumbs up

By Lincoln DePradine

Arielle Kayabaga, Member of Parliament for London West

A Canadian government budget, in which one of the largest categories of spending is on healthcare and additional investment in the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative (SBCCI), has received mixed reaction – support from the Liberal Black Caucus and condemnation from the Conservative Party of federal Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre.

“At a challenging time in a challenging world, budget 2023 will ensure that Canadians can continue to count on their government being there for them,” said Arielle Kayabaga, Liberal Member of Parliament for London West.

Kayabaga also is chair of the Liberal Black Caucus, which hosted an online meeting with reporters Monday to discuss the budget.

The 255-page budget, tabled by finance minister Chrystia Freeland, outlines more than $67.3 billion in new spending over five years.

To strengthen Canada’s universal public healthcare system, the budget delivers $198.3 billion for such things as expanding access to family health services.

As well, some of the money is going into spending on clean technology, as well as on programs such as the creation of a new “Grocery Rebate’’ to help Canadians cope with inflation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government also is proposing the establishment of an Oral Health Access Fund, which would address “oral health gaps among vulnerable populations”, and will extend coverage to those living in rural and remote communities.

The fund lays out plans to expand the Canada Dental Benefit — which currently helps cover the dental care costs of children under 12 — and sets out $13 billion over five years to create a federal dental care plan. The new plan would provide dental care coverage to uninsured Canadians with a family income of less than $90,000 by the end of this year.

While federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh praised the budget and its dental care plan, Conservative Leader Poilievre claimed the budget package’s increased spending will ultimately hurt those it aims to help.

“Low-income working class people will suffer the most as a result of this costly inflationary Liberal deficit,” he said.

However, Poilievre’s views are not shared by MP Kayabaga and other Liberal Black Caucus members, nor by MP Randy Boissonnault, associate minister of finance.

“With grocery prices going up, many Canadians are struggling to make ends meet. Budget 2023 is our plan to make life more affordable, strengthen public health care, and build a stronger, more sustainable, and more secure Canadian economy—for everyone. This is exactly what we’re doing with the new Grocery Rebate and other investments in Budget 2023,” said Boissonnault, who also is minister of tourism.

Among the budget measures is an additional $25 million for the SBCCI, a program aimed at building the capacity of Black-led grassroots and non-profit organizations that serve Canada’s Black communities.

Other budgeted items include a $46 million investment to create a mental health fund for Black employees in the federal public service.

“This budget helps to make life more affordable for all Canadians, strengthen our universal public healthcare system, and build a clean economy that will create good middle class jobs across the country,’’ said Kayabaga.

LJI Reporter