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Federal Budget 2021: Liberals seek to win over low-wage workers and students

Last Updated Apr 19, 2021 at 1:33 pm PDT

OTTAWA — The federal government is looking to give workers and students a leg up with a budget that commits billions to training, benefits and debt relief, as those hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic try to dust themselves off. 

The first Liberal budget in more than two years pledges $2.4 billion over three years to developing skills and trades, with about 40 per cent aimed at providing training for Canadians in sectors ranging from health care to construction. 

It adds on nearly $9 billion more to beef up the Canada Workers Benefit in a boost to low-income workers, who will have a higher income threshold at which their benefit starts to shrink. 

Geneviève Tellier, a political science professor from the University of Ottawa, says the emphasis on training and the added work incentive represent a “market-oriented vision” of government assistance and should end speculation around a universal basic income, which does not appear in the 739-page document. 

The budget also allots $5.7 billion over five years to helping post-secondary students, more than half of which will go to doubling federal student grants, on top of cash set aside to waive interest on federal student loans until March 2023. 

Other measures include bumping the federal minimum wage to $15, pledging $300 million to programs for Black and women entrepreneurs and other underrepresented groups, and recommitting to protect gig workers through promised amendments to the Canada Labour Code. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2021. 

The Canadian Press