2019 Budget - Highlights from Children's Healthcare Canada & Paediatric Chairs of Canada


March 20, 2019

Attention: Children’s Healthcare Canada Members and the Paediatric Chairs of Canada

Re: Budget 2019


Late yesterday afternoon, the Liberal government unveiled the details of their 2019 Budget “Investing in the Middle Class”. The 464-page document focused on a broad range of issues from housing and employment, to reconciliation and innovation. There were a number of health-related announcements throughout the budget, some of which are detailed below. Notably, for the first time, the budget included an “accompanying booklet” outlining investments the government is making in response to feedback from youth. This appendix can be found here: “Investing in Young Canadians”.

With respect to the declared priorities of Children’s Healthcare Canada and Paediatric Chairs of Canada, Budget 2019 promised the following new investments:

Mental Health:

  • Budget 2019 proposes to invest $25 million over five years and $5 million per year ongoing to work with experienced partners to support a pan-Canadian suicide prevention service. Building on existing services, the pan-Canadian suicide prevention service will provide people across Canada with access to bilingual, 24/7 crisis support from trained responders, using the technology of their choice (voice, text or chat).

  • Budget 2019 proposes to invest an additional $30.5 million over five years, starting in 2019–20, and $1 million ongoing to address persistent gaps in harm reduction and treatment related to problematic opioid use and emerging challenges in responding to opioid overdoses across the country

Indigenous Children’s Health:

  • To ensure that First Nations children continue to have access to the health and social services that they need, Budget 2019 proposes to invest $1.2 billion over three years, beginning in 2019–20 in the Child First Initiative. During that time, the Government and First Nations will continue to work together to develop a long-term approach to improving services for First Nations children, based on Jordan’s Principle.           

  • To address the immediate needs of Inuit children, Budget 2019 proposes to invest $220 million over five years, beginning in 2019–20, to provide services to Inuit children as work continues with Inuit and other government partners to improve local capacity to deliver services.

  • The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy was released in July 2016 and set out a series of actions and interventions at the community and regional level to address the high number of deaths by suicide among Inuit, where the suicide rate remains 5 to 25 times the national average for Canada. To continue to support Inuit peoples and communities, Budget 2019 proposes an investment of $50 million over 10 years, starting in 2019–20, with $5 million per year ongoing, to support ITK’s Inuit-specific approach through the Strategy to address deaths by suicide in Inuit communities. (Note – this is a strategy that address suicide prevention at all ages, not focused specifically on children and youth)


  • Budget 2019 proposes to provide Health Canada with $35 million over four years, starting in 2019–20, to establish a Canadian Drug Agency Transition Office. This office would be to help ensure the sustainability of drug coverage in Canada. By acting as a single evaluator and negotiator on behalf of Canada’s drug plans, the proposed agency could reduce drug spending by billions of dollars per year, compared to baseline projections, within ten years of implementation. Over the coming months, the Government will work with provinces and territories, and other partners, to develop a vision and mandate for such an agency.

Rare Disease:

  • Canadians with any of the roughly 7,000 rare diseases identified by the Canadian Organization for Rare Diseases can have hope they will get help dealing with the costs of their medications. Budget 2019 proposes spending up to $1 billion over two years starting in 2022-2023 to help Canadians with rare diseases access the drugs they need. Up to $500 million would be made available each year ongoing. The plan is to have the federal government partner with provinces and territories with come up with a strategy to improve access to drugs for rare diseases across the country and negotiate better prices with drug manufacturers.

Children and Youth with Disabilities:

  • To improve employment outcomes for persons with intellectual disabilities, and Autism Spectrum Disorders, Budget 2019 proposes to provide $12 million over three years, starting in 2019–20, to the Canadian Association for Community Living, in partnership with the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance for the Ready, Willing and Able program. The funding will be provided through the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities.

  • $15.0 million over five years to make Canada Student Loans more accessible by making it more flexible for vulnerable student loan borrowers, such as students with permanent disabilities.

For Families of Children with Severe Disabilities:

  • The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) is designed to help Canadians with severe disabilities, along with their families, save for their long-term financial security. To support this goal of saving for the future, the federal government provides Canada Disability Savings Grants and Canada Disability Savings Bonds to Canadians with severe disabilities. Together, these provide up to $90,000 in additional support over a beneficiary’s lifetime. Budget 2019 proposes two changes that will better protect the long-term savings of persons with disabilities: to eliminate the requirement to close an RDSP when a beneficiary no longer qualifies for the DTC. Doing so will allow grants and bonds otherwise required to be repaid to the Government to remain in the RDSP; and to exempt RDSPs from seizure in bankruptcy, with the exception of contributions made in the 12 months before the filing.

  • Expanding the list of GST/HST-exempt health care services to specifically include a multidisciplinary health care service, such as when a physician, occupational therapist and physiotherapist combine their expertise and work together as a team to provide a rehabilitation service.  

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Workforce:

  • In December 2018, legislation was passed to create the new Department for Women and Gender Equality (formerly Status of Women Canada), with an expanded mandate for gender equality that includes sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. To further support the Department in its strengthened mandate and continue to advance gender equality in Canada, Budget 2019 proposes a historic investment: $160 million over 5 years, starting in 2019–20. By 2023–24, the Women’s Program will total $100 million annually. This funding will enable further community action to tackle systemic barriers impeding women’s progress, while recognizing and addressing the diverse experiences of gender and inequality across the country

  • Budget 2019 proposes to provide $1.5 million over 5 years, starting in 2019–20 to the Treasury Board Secretariat to work with departments receiving Budget 2019 funding to ensure robust administrative data collection and reporting practices with respect to gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) information for all initiatives. The Secretariat will draw on the expertise of Statistics Canada and the Department for Women and Gender Equality in developing standardized frameworks and tools for GBA+ disaggregated data collection and reporting. This will achieve greater consistency and comparability over time and across programs in the aim of improving the inclusiveness of Government of Canada programs

Over the coming days the Children’s Healthcare Canada and the Paediatric Chairs of Canada will conduct a deeper dive to ensure we have not missed any relevant announcements.

The announcements above represent a positive step forward on many fronts for the children, youth and families our members serve. More can be done. More is needed. Working closely with our respective advocacy committees, and in collaboration with many other stakeholders in child health, we are committed to ensuring children and youth are part of a continued dialogue throughout the months leading into the federal election, and beyond.

Emily Gruenwoldt
CEO Children’s Healthcare Canada;
Executive Director, Paediatric Chairs of Canada

Marion Williams
Government Relations Specialist, Children’s Healthcare Canada