On April 20, Canada’s Minister of Finance Bill Morneau released the 2019 Federal Budget. The budget expects a deficit of $14.9 billion for the 2018-19 fiscal year. This estimate is lower than the original projection of $18.1 billion outlined in last year’s budget. The deficit is expected to decline to $9.8 billion for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
OSPE has identified areas of most interest to our membership, and will be providing government with recommendations through our efforts to engage all parties in engineering issues ahead of the federal election.
The 2019 budget introduced the First Time Home Buyer Incentive, which offers lower mortgage payments for families making less than $120,000 per year on the purchase of their first home.
Under the $1.25 billion incentive program, prospective buyers who have the minimum down payment for a home can apply to finance 5 to 10 per cent of their mortgage through shared equity with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. These measures seek to incentivize the construction of new housing and mitigate rising prices that have choked the path to home ownership for many younger Canadians.
The 2019 budget keeps building on Canada’s First National Housing Strategy, which was released in 2017 to continue increasing housing supply through partnerships and targeted investments.
Budget 2019 also expands the Rental Construction Financing Initiative, which seeks to build more than 42,500 new housing units across Canada.
Budget 2019 highlights the progress undertaken in The Investing in Canada Plan, where the federal government pledged to invest more than $180 billion over 12 years (2016-28) to build infrastructure in communities across the country.
IMPACT: OSPE commends the federal government’s continued approach to invest in infrastructure, which includes public transit, green infrastructure, social infrastructure and infrastructure that supports trade and transportation.
OSPE agrees that funding infrastructure projects is a beneficial, long-term investment. However, given that funding is finite, OSPE believes money must be spent wisely and hard decisions need to be made in terms of which infrastructure projects get approved. OSPE stresses to all levels of government that key decisions on infrastructure should be evidence-based and made in consultation with infrastructure experts, including engineers.
As OSPE’s CEO Sandro Perruzza has stated “engineers are key to the effective design and development of virtually all aspects of infrastructure. It is incumbent upon OSPE to place engineers in front of those who determine where funds should go so projects get done.”
Budget 2019 highlights the need to tackle the rising cost of electricity.
Even though in Canada, the provinces and territories rather than the federal government are responsible for the generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity within their boundaries, OSPE commends the federal government’s approach of investing in energy efficient policies within its jurisdictional power.
To help reduce Canadians’ electricity bills, Budget 2019 proposes to invest $1.01 billion in 2018–19 to increase energy efficiency in residential, commercial and multi-unit buildings. These investments will be delivered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) through the Green Municipal Fund.
Budget 2019 proposes to allocate the resources to three initiatives that would provide financing to municipalities as follows:
• Collaboration on Community Climate Action ($350 million): to provide municipalities and non-profit community organizations with financing and grants to retrofit and improve the energy efficiency of large community buildings as well as community pilot and demonstration projects in Canadian municipalities.
• Community EcoEfficiency Acceleration ($300 million): to provide financing for municipal initiatives to support home energy efficiency retrofits. Homeowners could qualify for assistance in replacing furnaces and installing renewable energy technologies.
• Sustainable Affordable Housing Innovation ($300 million): to provide financing and support to affordable housing developments to improve energy efficiency in new and existing housing and support on-site energy generation.
Budget 2019 also proposes to invest $60 million in 2018-19 in FCM’s Municipal Asset Management Capacity Fund to help small communities get skills training on how to inventory, grow and maintain infrastructure assets over five years.
IMPACT: OSPE is pleased to see support for energy efficient policies, as well as municipal asset management planning.
In December 2016, Canada’s First Ministers adopted the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. The Framework is built on four pillars: pricing carbon pollution; complementary actions to further reduce emissions across the economy; measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience; and actions to accelerate innovation, support clean technology and create jobs.
IMPACT: OSPE believes that carbon pricing is an essential first step to a comprehensive climate change policy.
It is imperative that this be followed and continued by significant public-sector leadership in creating a strong regulatory framework, new areas of research and innovation in the development of new low-carbon technology, and a cross-ministry approach to ensure that all policy initiatives are synergistic in nature from an economical viewpoint.
The 2019 federal budget also recognizes the fact that transportation accounts for about one quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The federal government proposes strategic investments that will make it easier and more affordable to purchase zero-emission vehicles.
IMPACT: OSPE commends the approach of making zero-emission vehicle options more readily available and affordable for more and more Canadians.
Budget 2019 recognizes that in a knowledge economy, individuals may need to upgrade their skills in order to adapt to demands in the labour market. An investment of $1.7 billion over five years, and $586.5 million per year ongoing will allow Canadians to have a personalized and portable training benefit.
IMPACT: A skilled technical workforce is a key driver of the innovation economy. Advances in technology have impacted all industries from automotive to oil and gas. Enabling professionals to upskill and adapt to these changes will ultimately lead to a more robust R&I ecosystem.
Budget 2019 proposes changes to Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans to improve access to and affordability of post-secondary education. These changes include:
• Lower the floating interest rate from prime plus 2.5 percentage points, starting in 2019-20.
• Lower the fixed interest rate to prime plus 2.0 percentage points, from its current rate of prime plus 5.0 percentage points, starting in 2019-20.
Budget 2019 proposes to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act so that student loans will not accumulate any interest during the six-month non-repayment period after a student loan borrower leaves school.
Lastly, the government proposes to invest $15 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, to modernize the Canada Student Loans Program.
IMPACT: According to Statistics Canada, tuition for all engineering programs in Ontario is higher than the national average. Through these changes the government is removing barriers to education for students that require financial assistance. OSPE believes that all students who wish to pursue an engineering education should have access to that education.
Budget 2019 proposes to provide $114 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, with $26.5 million per year ongoing, to the federal granting councils—the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council—to create 500 more master’s level scholarship awards annually and 167 more three-year doctoral scholarship awards annually through the Canada Graduate Scholarship program.
In addition, starting in 2019-20, the federal government will work collaboratively with willing provincial and territorial partners on options to improve access to financial supports for graduate students from low-income families.
IMPACT: At the heart of innovation is investment in research and development, which allows researchers, scientists, and engineers to uncover new knowledge, techniques and technologies. This funding will enable engineers to continue conducting ground-breaking research.
Budget 2019 proposes to set an ambitious target: that within 10 years, the Government will strive to ensure that every young Canadian who wants a work-integrated learning opportunity should get one.
Budget 2019 proposes to provide Employment and Social Development Canada with an additional $150 million over four years, starting in 2020-21, to create partnerships with innovative businesses to further 20,000 work-integrated learning opportunities per year. Together, these efforts will, over time, help create 40,000 work placements for Canadian students by 2023-24.
In addition, as a signal of how valuable the Student Work Placement program is for employers, the Business/Higher Education Roundtable has committed to match these placements, creating an additional 44,000 work-integrated learning placements and opportunities per year by 2021.
IMPACT: Work integrated learning opportunities are essential to ensuring that engineering students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to transition into the workforce. OSPE has been a consistent advocate for industry and government to work together to increase the number of these opportunities for engineering students.
To strengthen the cyber security of Canada’s critical infrastructure, Budget 2019 builds on these investments and proposes $144.9 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, including $22.9 million from existing Communications Security Establishment resources. This investment will help to protect Canada’s critical cyber systems in the finance, telecommunications, energy and transport sectors.
IMPACT: Cities and communities across Canada are transforming and becoming increasingly interconnected. This creates points of vulnerability. Engineers are integral to building secure systems to protect infrastructure assets such as power grids. Having support from the government is important in ensuring that cybersecurity becomes a consideration in all “smart” developments.
Budget 2019 provides $5 million over five years in 2019-20, to Employment and Social Development Canada to develop a strategy and improve capacity to better measure, monitor and address gender disparity and promote access of under-represented groups across skills programming.
In Budget 2018, the Government provided $100 million over five years for the Women’s Program to better support the sustainability of women’s organizations and equality-seeking groups, with a particular focus on vulnerable women, including Indigenous women, women with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ2+ community, and newcomer, racialized and migrant women. 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.
To further support the Government’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion, Budget 2019 proposes to provide $20 million over two years, starting in 2019-20 to help address the unique needs and persisting disparities among LGBTQ2+ Canadians by investing in capacity building and community-level work of Canadian LGBTQ2+ service organizations. An additional $1.2 million in 2020-21 is proposed to support the ongoing establishment of the LGBTQ2+ Secretariat.
Building on previous commitments, Budget 2019 proposes to provide $45 million over three years, starting in 2019-20, to support a new Anti-Racism Strategy. Its key purpose will be to find ways to counter racism in its various forms, with a strong focus on community-based projects. In addition, in recognition of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, Budget 2019 proposes to provide $25 million over five years starting in 2019-20 for projects and capital assistance to celebrate, share knowledge and build capacity in our vibrant Black Canadian communities.
The proposed investments in Budget 2019 will help Indigenous Peoples obtain the skills and experiences they need to succeed in a changing economy and contribute to stronger economic growth for all Canadians.
Budget 2019 proposes a number of investments, starting in 2019-20, to ensure that Indigenous students have better access to post-secondary education, and more support to ensure that they can succeed during their studies. This includes support for:
• First Nations communities by investing $327.5 million over five years to renew and expand funding for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program while the Government engages with First Nations on the development of long-term First Nations-led post-secondary education models.
• An Inuit-led post-secondary education strategy through an investment of $125.5 million over ten years, and $21.8 million per year ongoing.
• A Métis Nation-led post-secondary education strategy consisting of financial assistance for Métis Nations students through an investment of $362 million over ten years, and $40million per year ongoing.
To further support Indigenous students, Budget 2019 proposes to provide Indspire with $9 million over three years, starting in 2019-20, for additional bursaries and scholarships for First Nations, Inuit and Métis students. Indspire is an Indigenous-led registered charitable organization with a proven track record of helping Indigenous students attend post-secondary institutions and find good jobs.
IMPACT: OSPE believes that the engineering profession is strengthened by equity, diversity and inclusiveness. We rely on the wide range of expertise and experience that our members bring to the association to help us problem-solve and innovate on issues of importance to our many stakeholders. Having these diverse perspectives in the engineering community will lead to better outcomes for the profession and for the sector as a whole.
OSPE commends the Federal government for using GBA+ to ensure the 2019 Budget focused on the needs of equity seeking groups. OSPE looks forward to working with the federal government on these and other important initiatives to ensure that the voice of Ontario’s engineers is heard.