Federal politics in 2021: From budget to election?

April 28, 2021
John Delacourt.
If you missed our webinar on the federal political outlook for 2021, don’t worry – the video recording is ready for viewing.

On April 8 at 4 p.m. EST, the National Association of Federal Retirees hosted a live webinar on the outlook for federal politics in 2021, with John Delacourt, vice-president and group leader with Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

Canadians have found themselves on a rollercoaster since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s extended to the political landscape as governments deal with the pandemic and how to recover from it.

Federal politics seem to be taking on a new intensity. With a minority government that is continuing to grapple with Canada’s pandemic response, party conventions and a looming April budget as well as ongoing issues that have united and divided Canadians (and party leaders), some pundits are saying it all seems to be leading Canadians to the polls in 2021. 

Delacourt shared his outlook on federal politics in 2021 and some key moments to anticipate.  

“The government is still very much in crisis mode, with COVID-19 crisis management remaining the highest priority,” says Delacourt.

“The final draft of the Budget will note this crisis mode, but also be forward-looking to a recovery economy. Support for long term care and our most vulnerable are important components of ‘building back better,’ yet it remains to be seen how that will be defined in the Budget on April 19th,” adds Delacourt.

Several attendees posed questions – so many that there was not enough time to answer them all. We asked Delacourt to answer some of the outstanding questions:

  • What do you predict could be in the budget for support of veterans, and particularly women veterans. Do you see GBA+ being implemented for things like veteran homelessness support (that to date continues to focus almost exclusively on male veteran homelessness?)
    • Answer: Thankfully, with the budget e see a commitment to provide $140 million over five years starting in 2021-22, and $6 million ongoing, to Veterans Affairs Canada for a program that would cover the mental health care costs of veterans with PTSD, depressive, or anxiety disorders while their disability benefit application is being processed.
    • Budget 2021 also proposes to provide an additional $15 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to Veterans Affairs Canada to expand and enhance the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund for projects that will support veterans during the post COVID-19 recovery, including addressing homelessness, employment, retraining, and health challenges. It’s an established government policy to include GBA+ for these measures but we’ll keep the dialogue going to ensure it.
  • A paradigm change in "long-term care" is long overdue - better models in other countries to consider in "building back better". For this to happen, some profound policy changes and longer term sustained strategic efforts requiring federal and provincial governments rowing together in the same direction. Hopefully lessons from COVID-19 will carry forward with non-partisan statesmanship leadership. How do you see federal and provincial governments and parties working together for the greater good - in particular LTC. Is this possible given political polarizations- constitutional structure - multiple levels of government and powers, regional interests? What do you see as the glue holding Canada together in post COVID-19 world?
    • Answer: I think it’s clear that all parties realize that the pandemic has drawn a veil back on systemic inequities, and in no policy front more acutely than with long-term care. The budget proposes to provide $3 billion over five years, starting in 2022-23, to Health Canada to support provinces and territories in ensuring standards for long-term care are applied and permanent changes are made. “To keep seniors safe and improve their quality of life, the federal government will work collaboratively with provinces and territories, while respecting their jurisdiction over health care, including long-term care. This work would ensure seniors and those in care live in safe and dignified conditions.
  • LTC is essential but if we work upstream many actions could be put in place to ensure services (i.e. home care, age-friendly) that will keep older adults out of them and in their homes for a much longer time. How does the federal government address this given provincial jurisdiction?
    • Answer: In addition, the budget will provide $90 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to Employment and Social Development Canada to launch the Age Well at Home initiative. Age Well at Home would assist community-based organizations in providing practical support that helps low-income and otherwise vulnerable seniors age in place, such as matching seniors with volunteers who can help with meal preparations, home maintenance, daily errands, yard work, and transportation. This initiative would also support regional and national projects that help expand services that have already demonstrated results in helping seniors stay in their homes. For example, knowledge hubs can help seniors access the local services available to them or provide information, resources, and training to community-based organizations delivering practical supports to seniors.

As for whether Canadians can expect to head to the polls before they’ve had their vaccine, or a little later?

“So much of the government’s openness, and efforts on collaboration will continue to be defined by the management of the vaccine rollout,” says Delacourt. “As the Conservatives and NDP seek to define themselves with Canadians, we’ll see more opposition motions that outline election positioning. Following the tabling of the budget on April 19, a confidence vote could be triggered, paving the way for the next election. However, much remains to be seen.”

Jean-Guy Soulière, Federal Retirees president noted the need for increased tempo and focus in advocacy. “As we continue to move closer to an election, it is imperative we counite to build relationships with all MPs – from all parties,” says Soulière. “Opposition MPs are sometimes overlooked but can be allies on issues in the House and in Committee. They have the numbers to amend government legislation, offering additional opportunities for Federal Retirees priorities to be addressed.”

“This is why Reach 338 volunteers are meeting with every MP across Canada to ensure all 338 of them are aware of, and understand, Federal Retirees' priorities,” adds Soulière.

One thing is for sure: Federal Retirees needs you on its team to ensure the Association is ready for whatever comes in 2021. You can support our advocacy efforts by joining the Reach 338 network! Reach 338 is a nationwide network of advocates advancing our mission to significantly improve the quality and security of retirement for our members and all Canadians. By signing up to be part of Reach 338, you will be among the first to know about upcoming campaigns, have access to special training opportunities, be able to participate in exciting advocacy surveys and challenges and will be able to connect with other Reach 338 members in your area. 

Join the Reach 338 team today!

Whether you missed the event or you’d like to relive the highlights, you can view the full recording below.(Please note that this webinar was presented in English with simultaneous French translation.