Here are some of the highlights from the 2020 Provincial Budget of interest to CUPE NL members.
Health Care and Education
In two of the biggest areas of the budget, Government barely increased funding. K-12 Education and Early Childhood Development received less than a 1% increase – not enough to relieve the problems of years of cut spending, and not enough for the extra needs of the pandemic. This increase does not even keep up with inflation.
In Health Care, the budget was essentially unchanged from 2019-2020. This raises questions about whether there are sufficient resources budgeted to respond during this pandemic.
In both Education and Health Care, management services and the budget for top management and professional consultants increased by more than 10%. This is not the increased spending our members need.
Budget 2020 provided $25 a day child care starting in 2021, which will ease pressures on young families and allow parents to enter or return to the workforce. Also, committed $62 million for early childhood development programs that support families, educators and operators of child care services.
While CUPE NL applauds the expansion of publicly funded child care, at $25 a day it is still out of reach for workers earning below a living wage in NL. At the minimum wage of $12.15, a worker would have to work two hours of an 8-hour shift to pay for child care – losing 25% of their daily pay! CUPE NL believes child care should be free, public and universal. If Government wanted to start with a user fee it should have been much lower to allow people to afford it – for example, $10/day or $5/day.
In addition, Government did not announce any support for increasing the pay and benefits of early childhood educators (ECEs) who do this important work. Surely, there are no more important jobs in our province than those to whom we entrust the care of our children? ECEs deserve a big raise.
Budget 2020 provided $3.6 million to renovate and modernize public rental housing, which includes addressing accessibility needs.
This is only a small part of the overall investments that the Province should be making into public rental housing to provide safe, inclusive and good quality housing for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who need this support. CUPE members working for NL Housing need more resources to catch up on the infrastructure and repair deficit so that units can be as safe and healthy as possible for all residents of NL Housing.
Budget 2020 provided $11.3 million for the Provincial Information Library Resources Board.
The $11.3 million the Government announced to fund local library services in the province is wholly inadequate for the unique and pressuring demands on library services during the pandemic and doesn’t even keep up with inflation. $11.3 million is the same as what was spent last year.
CUPE library workers are committed to supporting their communities during this health emergency. There are so many people who are essentially shut up in their houses with no ability to safely get out to their local library. CUPE NL believes Government should be funding our libraries properly so that they can bring more books and magazines to people that can’t come to the library and that digital services can be increased to meet the increased online and digital demand.
Budget 2020 provided $10 million under the Municipal Capital Works Program to support projects that prioritize water, wastewater, disaster mitigation, and regional collaboration.
Municipalities desperately need support to upgrade aging water and wastewater systems. Some municipalities need to upgrade to make their water systems safer for everyone who relies on public water. Other municipalities need to upgrade wastewater and storm runoff systems to comply with changes to federal environmental regulations.
$10 million dollars this year is a drop in the bucket of what the province should be spending to upgrade water and wastewater systems. Now is the time, when we need job-creating investments all over the province, to use public borrowing power and federal support to invest in public water which will serve residents of the province safely for decades to come.
Budget 2020 provided close to $3 million to improve access and affordability of transportation. This includes $2.1 million to provide Metrobus or GoBus passes to Income Support clients in St. John’s, Mount Pearl, and Paradise.
CUPE NL was happy to see Government invest in important transportation services such as GoBus to improve access for lower income clients and others with mobility challenges. CUPE NL members who serve clients everyday as GoBus drivers want to be able to provide the best levels and quality of services for the community.