For Canadians fed up with chargers that don't fit their cellphones, hidden fees, air-travel disruptions and cosmetic testing on animals, the Liberal government says help is on the way.
Those and others are among the countless measures contained in the federal budget plan unveiled by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Here are some of the less-prominent promises being made:
Common chargers: Tired of trying to find the right charger for your phone? Noting the European Union recently mandated USB-C charging ports for all small handheld devices and laptops by 2024, the government says it will work with international partners and industry to develop a common standard for Canada. It claims the move will save Canadians money and reduce electronic waste. It is also promising to introduce a "targeted framework" for home appliances and electronics in 2024 to make it easier for Canadians to get such items repaired rather than having to replace them.
Right to repair: The budget says the government will work to create a framework outlining a right to repair home appliances and electronics sometime next year.
Fees and loans: The government says it will amend the Competition Act to better protect Canadians from hidden fees such as excessive baggage charges, roaming fees and added costs when buying things like concert tickets. It also promises to reduce the amount of interest lenders are allowed to charge to crack down on predatory loans, limiting the rate to 35 per cent annually. It also says it has secured commitments from Visa and Mastercard to lower their fees for small businesses, with details to come.
Air travel: Following months of complaints and horror stories from frustrated air travellers, the government says it is taking action. The budget promises $1.8 billion over five years to improve airport operations and passenger screening, and to address a backlog of complaints to the Canadian Transportation Agency. It is also proposing to strengthen the rules around compensation for Canadians whose travel plans are disrupted, and to give the CTA more authority to resolve passenger complaints.
Montreal infrastructure: The government says it plans to spend $587 million on redeveloping the Bonaventure Expressway and maintaining infrastructure held by Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated in Montreal.
Floods: Canadians are seeing more and stronger natural disasters, including devastating floods. In response, the government is setting aside $31.7 million over three years to start work on what it calls a "low-cost flood insurance program" for high-risk households without adequate insurance. It is also promising $15.3 million over three years for an online portal so Canadians can determine their flood risk, and $48.1 million over five years to identify high-risk flood areas and improve the program used by provinces and territories to recoup the cost of natural-disaster response.
Help for asylum seekers: Buried in the budget document is $999 million in spending for the coming fiscal year on temporary lodgings and health-care support for asylum claimants.
Leave for pregnancy loss: The budget says the government intends to make Canada Labour Code amendments that would create a stand-alone leave for workers in federally regulated sectors who suffer a pregnancy loss.
Farmers: The budget sets aside $34.1 million over three years to support the adoption of nitrogen management practices for Eastern Canadian farmers. The government notes that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to higher fertilizer prices, and that the money will help farmers optimize its use.
Space: Canada's space program is getting a boost, with $1.1 billion over 14 years for the country's participation in the International Space Station for the rest of the decade. Ottawa is also earmarking $1.2 billion over 13 years to develop and build a vehicle for astronauts to use when humanity returns to the moon with the Artemis 2 mission – a mission that will include a Canadian.
Protecting animals: They may not vote, but the federal government is nonetheless setting aside $151.9 million over three years to protect endangered whales and their habitats, and $184 million over three years for other species at risk. It is also promising to ban cosmetic testing on animals, and implement a ban on the sale of cosmetics that rely on animals to prove they are safe.
Fitness: The budgets earmarks $10 million over the next two years to fund ParticipACTION’s Let’s Get Moving initiative, which promotes daily exercise.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press