The 2019 Budget was tabled in Parliament March 19, 2019 and a number of line items will have impact on agriculture across Canada and right here at home. Entitled “Investing in the Middle Class,” the Budget outlined measures intended to set the tone for the upcoming election campaign anticipated this fall. The Budget projects a deficit of $19.8 billion for 2019-20 and estimates a federal debt-to-GDP ratio of 30.8%. As such, the Liberal promise of balancing the books by 2019 has not been achieved.
Here are the main highlights of interest to agriculture and you as producers:
1) Immigration Pilot: As anticipated, the Budget announced a three-year pilot project at Immigration
Canada to bring in full-time, non-seasonal agri-food workers that will include a pathway to permanent residency. (*NOTE: The National Cattle Feeders Association (NCFA) knows that the government is working with meat processors to design and roll-out the pilot.)
2) Training Benefit: A new, non-taxable, $250 per year cumulative training credit to help workers with
incomes between $10,000 and $150,000 between the ages of 25 and 64 pay for training. Through the EI system, a benefit will also be enhanced where workers can receive up to four weeks of income support, every four years, while on training.
3) Strategic Innovation Fund: An additional $100 million from the Strategic Innovation Fund for agri-
food value added production in Canada.
4) Regulatory Reform: The regulatory “roadmaps” for agri-food and aquaculture will be released in
the coming weeks (*NOTE: NCFA made an extensive submission to this consultation in 2018). Budget 2019 provides the CFIA, Health Canada. and Transport Canada with up to $219.1 million over five years and $3.1 million per year on an ongoing basis to implement regulatory changes. These include:
- Digitizing Canadian Food Inspection Agency services, including e-certification and on-line processing of CFIA export certificates.
- Review of the Canada Grain Act (in terms of issues related to inspections but also the grain classification process said to restrict grain exporters).
- Treasury Board establishing an External Advisory Committee on Regulatory Competitiveness, which will help identify opportunities to streamline regulations and advise on regulatory approaches.
5) National Food Policy: Work on a Food Policy will continue, including financial support for “local”
food projects, a “Buy Canadian” campaign, and reducing food waste.
6) Support for Supply Management: Up to $2.4 billion will be spent to support eligible dairy, poultry,
and egg farmers as a result of new trade deals. Of this amount, $250 million has already been dedicated as a result of the CETA agreement.
7) Infrastructure: The Budget will make a one-time transfer of $2.2 billion in uncommitted
infrastructure funding from older infrastructure programs to municipalities through the federal Gas Tax Fund.
- All municipalities in Canada receive funds from this fund.
- This will essentially double Ottawa’s commitment to municipalities in 2018–19 and will provide much needed funds for communities of all sizes, all across the country. (*NOTE: Assuming that all this funding is shared to municipalities based on per capita considerations, a municipal county of 10,000 residents would receive a one-time cash infusion of about $600,000.)
- The Budget also committed to the goal of providing universal high-speed Internet for every Canadian. The national target is to ensure that 95% of Canadian homes and businesses have access to internet speeds of at least 50/10 Mbps by 2026 and 100 % by 2030, regardless of location.
8) Western Economic Diversification: As part of the federal government’s economic growth strategy
for Western Canada, the federal government is promising $100 million over three years, starting in 2019-20.
- The funding will be dispersed via the government’s Western Economic Diversification department.
- The money will be earmarked for projects across a broad-range of sectors, including agriculture.
- The government has also set aside $1 million dollars in 2019-20 to allow the department to develop a new strategy to “sustainably manage water and land in the Prairies.”
9) Carbon Tax: The Budget announced that Finance Canada will be introducing draft amendments to
the federal carbon pricing system including expanded relief for electricity generation in remote communities, a rebate for exports of certain fuels, and expanded relief for gasoline and light fuel oils used by farmers and delivered to cardlock facilities.