Canada's Budget and the TWU Student
Justin Trudeau’s 2018 budget promises the young Canadians that a strong middle class will be waiting for them when they graduate. Research on “iGen,” the generation to follow the infamous “Millennials,” shows that our —whose formative years were disrupted by the 2008 financial crisis—is incredibly aware of the potential for financial instability. Trudeau’s government uses this budget as a marketing and public relations tool to engage this new generation of young Canadians. First, he congratulates Canadians on the progress they have already made: “In the past two years, Canadians have created more than half a million jobs.” Second, he employs his famous flair for the dramatic to say, “more hard work lies ahead.” Why You Should Care About All 369 Pages of Canada’s 2018 Budget
The first reason why you should be concerned with the budget is that it was written for you. It was written to be read by the average Canadian, and to communicate to the average citizen that the government is actively pursuing their interests. The budget affects Trinity students in two ways. First, how provisions made for the middle class, and towards equality benefit us individually and directly. Second, the budget, through outlining welfare plans, reconciliation strategies, and efforts to establish equality, indirectly benefits Trinity students by creating the communities and cultures which they want to live in, and help build.
Promises of an Economy When We Graduate
We must acknowledge that not every Trinity student is Canadian. Most would argue, however, that every Trinity student benefits from our university having a stable economy to call home. Trudeau promises five things: growth, progress, advancement, equality and reconciliation. He argues that we have already made strides in this regard, not by austerity such as spending cuts or tax increases, but rather by investing in the middle class. The government continues by arguing that these policies are responsible for Canada’s rapid growth over the past three years (Canada is now the fastest growing economy in the G7) and that this growth has led to a collective prosperity through investment in infrastructure and social policy. In sum, the 2018 budget wants two things for Trinity students: for them to work hard, and have the opportunity to work hard.
Trinity’s Gender Ratio and the Gender Pay Gap
The average Trinity student, who, statistically speaking, has an approximately three out of four likelihood of being female, will also be interested in Trudeau’s plan to address the gender pay gap. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, “taking steps to advance greater equality for women—such as employing more women in technology, and boosting women’s participation in the workforce—could add as much as 150 billion to the Canadian economy.” The budget insists that all Canadians will benefit from eliminating the gender pay gap because it will draw more women into the economy, and give them more purchasing power.
From a feminist perspective, much of what Trudeau emphasizes is very exciting. As previously stated, however, Trudeau’s plan for equality—including providing opportunities for women in sectors from trades to STEM, improving parental leave, and investing in affordable childcare—heavily relies on, and thus incentivizes, women entering the full-time workforce. Feminists are divided about whether increasing access to full time paid work and full-time pay should be conflated with female empowerment. Increasingly, prominent women, such as Carol Sandberg, an influential figure on staff at Facebook, and the author of Lean In, argue that we should understand equality as the ability to navigate flexible hours to facilitate commitment to both work and family.
Research suggests that women, particularly, women in a spiritual community such as Trinity, face disproportionate pressure to accept fewer commitments at work (i.e. limit themselves to part-time work) in favour of doubling their commitment to their family, compared to their male counter-parts. This decision often negatively affects a woman’s potential for advancement and her relationship with her co-workers.
Sadly, this decision to disproportionately accept paid work is responsible for a portion of the gender pay gap. Therefore, some have accused Trudeau of being short-sighted in measuring equality based on pay equity, instead of access to flexible hours. Andrea Mrozek, Cardus Family Program Director, provides one explanation for this tactic, saying that it, “couches a desperate need for GDP growth as women’s empowerment.” Her full-length article can be found in the online magazine Convivium.
Essentially, while the budget makes several progressive assertions, and moral appeals, Trudeau’s goal is clear: to increase Canada’s economic production. He walks an interesting line; his excessive use of the language of identity politics engages progressives, and his pragmatic arguments about the potential women have to contribute to Canada’s economy—such as innovation, skills, and increased purchasing power—appeal to conservatives. The likely female Trinity student, regardless of her politics, will be interested in his efforts to include her in the workforce.
Trinity’s Proximity to the Fentanyl Crisis
Many of us—as is the nature of political opinions—have concerns and expectations for our government beyond our own physical interests. Each of us has a vision of a community that we want to live in, and we want assurance that our government intends to build it.
Many Trinity students, in addition to our studies, prioritize service and volunteering. Those of us returning from Urban Plunge, or who have done Streetlight throughout their time here, care deeply about those impacted by the fentanyl crisis. The budget allocates money to provide a more effective strategy to tackle drug abuse in Canada. While we may not directly benefit from this money, many members of the Trinity community will still see this measure as a valuable investment in Canadian society.
Trinity and Unceded Territory
As a Trinity student, it can be 100 percent assured that you occupy, and benefit from, residence on unceded territory, as our school is on the traditional territory of the St’olo people. Trudeau’s budget professes to advocate continued work towards reconciliation and indigenous sovereignty. This is an example of an effort that might, eventually, negatively impact the Trinity student, or at least bear the appearance of negatively affecting our interests. Some students may interpret this action as our government extending grace in the hopes of receiving some in return for our despicable, and pursuant to the UN definition, genocidal, actions throughout history. Others may express concerns, however, about wasteful or exorbitant spending, and a pattern of a lack of progress and efficiency in this area for years.
If you want to indulge yourself in a fantasy over the next few weeks, read Trudeau’s 2018 budget. It is a document designed to inspire you to take up full-time work; in your absence, it assures you that your tax dollars are hard at work building a positive community. Alternatively, you could view the budget as an intellectual exercise—one worthy of a university student—as the budget explores the connection between actualized assets and abstract ideations. Therefore, it is imperative that the that the Trinity student remembers that everything outlined in this document is a promise. And, that it is our responsibility, only as informed Canadians, but also as engaged students, to ensure that these promises will be carried out. We have a whole year of administrative incompetence and distracting maneuverings of power ahead of us to impede Trudeau’s budget.