The April 2021 Canadian Federal Budget was apparently the “thickest budget document” in recent years.
That didn’t stop it from falling short.
Three major things concern me.
#1: The proposed child care program
A national, publicly subsidized child care program was the “star” of the 2021 Budget, but I’m holding my applause.
By 2026, a national $10/day child care program (excluding Québec) would be available in Canada. A major milestone (and win) for care-givers across Canada.
The problem is, the child care policy proposed in the budget is not as inclusive as it appears at face value. It will benefit mostly two parent households working traditional 9-5 business hours.
I can’t remember the last time a working mother told me she clocked-out of work promptly at 5 pm. Can you?
While a major milestone in affordability, this expansion won’t help mothers re-enter the workforce, especially those in the front-line or service industries, or self-employed individuals who need childcare outside of the traditional 9-5 window.
I applaud the Government’s willingness to invest in a national child care program. Now is the time to make sure that the design and implementation of Canada’s program fits the reality of working parents.
#2: Funding for women entrepreneurs in the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy
Since the beginning of the pandemic, less than 10 percent of the growing 360,000 women-led businesses received government financial support throughout the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. These impacts are even greater for BIWOC owned and led businesses who, pre-pandemic, only received a small sliver of business funding.
Funding for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) needed to go further for women’s businesses.
Women need strategic, directed funding available to businesses that operate outside the traditional mold. What we got from the 2021 budget was an investment of $146.9 million over four years for WES. This is a shockingly inadequate amount, considering the budget recognizes the “disproportionate impact” that the pandemic has had on women’s businesses.
All of the evidence indicates that over the past year, women business owners have been hit hardest. They’ve been excluded from financial support, forced to take on additional care responsibilities, thus reducing the time they can spend on their business. When it’s clear that women have been significantly impacted, I expected a significant sign of support from our “feminist Government.”
I did the math.
If we estimate $8 million in funding for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Fund and the Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, we’re left with $138.9 million. Across four years in three key areas of focus (financing, mentorship, training), $11.57 million will be provided to women across Canada.
That’s only $900,000 per province or territory to support women.
You couldn’t buy a home in Vancouver with this funding.
#3: Threat of bankruptcy for women entrepreneurs
While bootstrapping is often applauded in the entrepreneurial community, what happens when you pull those straps too thin and they snap?
The limited funding provided to women-led businesses this budget will deepen the pressures for women to independently fund their businesses. Pre-pandemic, over 80 percent of women used personal credit to fund their businesses.
I’ve watched, as over the last 12 months, women have accumulated more debt than ever before and they have little to no support in accessing funding.
I fear what is coming for women.
Fancy statistical charts show that the rate of personal and business bankruptcies significantly dropped in 2020. Upon first glance, one may think “Wow–we’ve been saved”.
We have not. The lower rate is, at least in part, a result of creditors taking a step back and government intervention.
This creates a false impression that people have savings in their bank accounts that they are ready to spend once shops reopen. If people have money in their bank accounts, that money likely belongs to creditors or consists of interest payments that were temporarily deferred.
Once the government intervention fades into memory, the few women who were able to access support may fade alongside it. Once we’re “back to normal”, those creditors will come calling, regardless of whether women have rebuilt their business or found a job. And the national childcare program is still 5-years away.
Budget 2021 didn’t compensate for the social and economic devastation that hit women the hardest.
There was plenty of symbolic recognition of women’s hardships during this time – but no clear plan, suggestion or hint to indicate a targeted plan to support women during the response and recovery phase.
Without a targeted plan, we will again see women left behind.
And when women are left behind, it hurts everyone.