Hardwiring Canada’s New Quality of Life Framework in Budget 2022 Decision-Making and Metrics

Budget 2021 was the first Canadian budget document to include a Quality of Life Statement and evaluate investments according to a quality of life framework. This framework recognizes the need to broaden our definition of economic success beyond GDP to take into account the social and environmental outcomes that are foundational to present and future well-being.

The Quality of Life Statement in Budget 2021 states, “It has long been understood that standard measures of economic progress like GDP do not capture the full range of the factors that, evidence shows, determine a good quality of life. GDP tells us how overall economic activity is growing, but little about how growth is distributed across our society. It fails to account for non-market economic activity, like care responsibilities, and environmental harms.”

Nevertheless, growing GDP remained an overriding theme in the Budget 2021 document. To enable Canada’s economy to generate inclusive well-being, “thinking beyond GDP” must be central to decision-making, and metrics of other conditions of well-being need, in the least, equal prominence.

Environment is one of six pillars in the proposed Quality of Life Framework for Canada: The natural environment is the foundation of human existence. Clean water, fresh air and healthy food are necessities for life, and adverse weather events create risk to livelihoods as well as well-being. Access to pristine green and blue spaces is a source of recreation and enjoyment, an important part of Canadian identity and central to Indigenous cultures. The environment can also be interpreted broadly to include more than just nature. Access to parks and public transit, walkable communities, lower levels of noise pollution and pleasing aesthetics in one’s local environment all contribute to a higher quality of life. Canadians have a shared responsibility to ensure natural resource use is sustainable and to conserve nature’s splendour for future generations. Source: Measuring What Matters, Finance Canada, April 2021

The Green Budget Coalition appreciates the work underway to advance the Quality of Life Framework for Canada and investments in Budget 2021 to fill data gaps in quality of life measurements. We recommend the government now formalize a rigorous process to fully incorporate the framework into Budget 2022 decision-making. We further recommend that quarterly national economic updates be expanded to track well-being indicators and report on the performance of the Canadian economy with respect to quality of life. In future, there may also be scope to review the Bank of Canada’s mandate – for example, tying monetary policy interventions to specific equity and environment-positive outcomes aligned with the Quality of Life Framework for Canada.


Lisa Gue – lgue@davidsuzuki.org