Last week in the Senate: a transforming labour market, the government’s balance sheet and autism awareness.
Dramatic changes to the world of work, including snowballing robot technology, are transforming the employment and labour sectors and having a profound impact on Canadians — especially young people, which is why I support the motion of Senator Pierrette Ringuette who called for the creation of a Senate committee solely devoted to such issues.
By creating a Senate Standing Committee on Human Resources we could study urgent issues such as the economic disruption caused by technology; minority participation in the labour market (including that of Indigenous Canadians); youth underemployment and the demographic shift created by the aging baby boom generation.
These are all pressing matters. Think of our young people, especially Indigenous young people. It is hard to imagine that they are currently not participating in the country’s economic growth the way other demographic groups are.
Issues such as the precariousness of work among the young are increasingly the subject of societal debate, as is the issue of Artificial Intelligence. Almost half (47%) of professions in the services sector could be performed by robots within the next 20 years. We need to develop tools, such as lifelong learning strategies, to adapt to such profound change.
A Human Resources committee would also give senators an opportunity to focus more directly on the concerns of their province or region and look at issues including decent work, minimum wage and how to help the working poor.
Tuesday, the Minister of Finance tabled the government’s Fall Economic Statement. He confirmed that the Liberal Government will borrow $20 billion this year to pay for their out-of-control spending. During the 2015 election, the Liberals promised to run short term-deficit of less than $10 billion in each of the next two fiscal years, and return to a balanced budget in 2019.
With no money in the treasury — the cold hard reality of taxes going up for those in the middle class, is starting to hit home. A report by the Fraser Institute concluded that 80% of middle-class Canadians pay more tax today under this government than under the previous. And that is a report based on the tax increases that we know about. We recently learned that the Canada Revenue Agency has been denying diabetics’ applications for the Disability Tax Credit, despite their doctors certifying they are eligible under the law.
The recent Bank of Canada’s monetary policy report was also released this week. It shows uncertainty about U.S. trade policy and the impact it will have on our investment and export growth. If we add into that mix concerns over the housing market and plans by the U.S. to create a more competitive tax regime, we see that there are a lot of unknowns on the horizon.
By not reining in spending now, the government is leaving more debt for future generations and giving our country less room to maneuver in the event of a shock to the system.
Independent Senators Group
This week we catch a glimpse of the Senate through the eyes of Independent Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard - Nova Scotia (East Preston).
We are coming to the end of Autism Awareness Month, and it has been a busy few weeks of collaborating with community members in raising awareness and introducing the initiative for a National Autism Strategy. Senators Munson and Housakos have been working tirelessly to raise awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and upon my arrival to the Senate it has been my pleasure to join this team of advocates for change. It has been 10 years since the Pay Now or Pay Later report came out, and families are still struggling to get the support they need for their loved ones with ASD.
This strategy will improve access to ASD services and supports for all Canadians. There are many people marginalized by the intersection of disability with race, poverty, gender and age. Their experiences are often left out of policies that inform the development of programs. Gaps in services are often magnified for these marginalized groups. This strategy is an opportunity to ensure that the needs of everyone, especially the needs of the most marginalized families, are addressed.
I believe we now have a deeper understanding of the urgency of this issue. I have great hope for a National Autism Strategy, as there are many people dedicated to driving this change to positively impact the lives of Canadians in the ASD community.