Making Budget 2021 a Canadian Well-Being Budget

As governments—and  private sector actors—shift to planning for economic recovery, there is a critical window to rethink the fundamentals of our economic system. As stated in the finance minister’s July 8, 2020, Economic and Fiscal Snapshot, “Traditional economic measurements such as Gross Domestic Product alone do not give a full picture of Canadians’ quality of life, and the pandemic has further exposed this fact.” The Green Budget Coalition recommends the government redesign the federal fiscal and economic policy framework to focus on well-being and make Budget 2021 a Canadian well-being budget.

Wellbeing is when people are able to lead fulfilling lives with purpose, balance and meaning to them in a manner that respects Nature’s capacity to provide. A well-being budget recognizes that economic growth alone does not guarantee better quality of life, and seeks to optimize social and environmental outcomes, alongside monetary outcomes. By aligning fiscal decision-making with a well- being framework, a well-being budget would be a foundational step towards repurposing our economy to explicitly generate well-being for people today within the limits of nature, thus ensuring a healthy planet for generations to come.

Several other countries are already moving in this direction. New Zealand delivered its first well-being budget in 2019. Budget decisions were based on a well-being analysis that considered a range of economic, social, environmental and cultural considerations, with a long-term view of intergenerational outcomes. Scotland, Finland and Iceland have also formally adopted well-being economy approaches.

Canada’s Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance, the Hon. Mona Fortier, is mandated to, “Lead work… to better incorporate quality of life measurements into government decision-making and budgeting, drawing on lessons from other jurisdictions such as New Zealand and Scotland.” The Green Budget Coalition appreciates that this work has begun and recommends that the government formalize a framework to support a Canadian well-being budget in 2021. We further recommend that national economic updates be expanded to track well-being indicators -– broadening the definition of what constitutes economic success to include not only the health of national finances but also the health of the natural environment, people and communities.

As Canada rebuilds, there is an opportunity to rebuild better. This will be accomplished in part by appropriately targeting stimulus spending to align with environmental objectives. To achieve lasting progress towards a cleaner, more sustainable economy, the Green Budget Coalition recommends formally reorienting Canada’s economy to optimize economic decision-making in consideration of social foundations and environmental limits. Making Budget 2021 a Canadian well-being budget will support integrated decision-making towards these desired outcomes.

Lisa Gue –