Surrey – The Surrey Board of Trade is pleased with many of the announcements that were articulated in today’s Federal Budget 2018.
“Steps towards a national pharmacare program, investments in science and research, cybercrime, access to apprenticeships for women to address skill shortages, women entrepreneurship programming, CRA reform plans are all good for our economy,” said Anita Huberman, CEO Surrey Board of Trade.
“What was most concerning is that there is no contingency fund in the face of global economic pressures. With NAFTA uncertainty, the federal government is forecasting another deficit budget with limited revenue potential.”
“In addition, the Surrey Board of Trade was disappointed that a comprehensive tax reform that would help small and medium sized businesses, the backbone of our economy, was not mentioned.”
“The lack of a structured national child care program with the provinces needs to be implemented in order for women to engage effectively in entrepreneurial and career pathways.”
“There is an innovation strategy in this budget, but it needs to be aligned in a structured way to grow international trade opportunities.”
The Surrey Board of Trade observations on the top priorities for the organization and its members are:
ON INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS – Transportation, housing
Budget 2017 set aside about $2 billion, to be spent over 11 years, to support the National Trade Corridors Fund. The Fund was devised to address capacity at major ports, and to connect rail and highways across Canada; and, another $5 billion to be provided through the Canada Infrastructure Bank to address transportation priorities. It was from these funds that the federal 40% portion for the Mayor’s Council Transportation projects outlined in the 10-year plan was expected.
The federal government has committed their portion to the Transportation projects including Light Rail Transit (LRT) in Surrey.
ON SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE – Childcare, gender equity, youth
The Federal Government recently confirmed its commitment of $153 million to support a three year action plan leading towards the province’s vision for a universal child care program. This year’s budget does not include any mention of a national childcare plan that needs to be in coordination with putting women back in the workforce or by
In addition to the childcare investments, gender equity dominated the budget as the Federal Government recognizes that including more women in the work force will grow the economy.
The Surrey Board of Trade was very pleased to see that there are concrete steps towards the implementation of a universal pharmacare program. The solid implementation of a pharmacare committee to define and implement the plan hopefully in 2019, including costing, is a good step forward
“We began our advocacy three years ago when we realized just how much businesses are paying for drugs. Removing that cost item off their bottom line will be very welcome,” said Huberman, who had spoken to this in front of the National Health committee. “We want to ensure that all community members, employers, employees, their families, and their neighbours, are able to access the medications they need to gain and maintain their health.”
Increasing access and affordability for prescriptions needs to happen. Moving to a universal pharmacare will save businesses and unions $5 billion every year according to a report by Express Scripts Canada (http://www.express-scripts.ca/research/drug-trend-reports).
ON BUSINESS TAXES AND COMPETITIVENESS
It’s no secret that small businesses are still unhappy with the changes that the Federal Government introduced July 2017. After a major push back, Minister Morneau modified the changes, but did not entirely remove them. The CRA is left to subjectively determine family contribution to businesses and there is still confusion over Passive Investment Rules. Clarity is needed on these.
What the Surrey Board of Trade didn’t see was an announcement for a comprehensive tax reform. Investments into a CRA Reform is welcome though.
To expand, Budget 2018 proposes to strengthen digital services in order to deliver a more user-friendly experience, as well as expand tax preparation clinics so more Canadians are able to get access to the benefits they are entitled to. The Government will also undertake a comprehensive review of the CRA to ensure that services are delivered in a client-centred way, and that Canadians interacting with the CRA feel like valued clients, not just taxpayers.
We heard about the investment to the small business tax rate to 10 per cent, effective January 1, 2018, and to 9 per cent, effective January 1, 2019. The other tax measures that were announced though in Late Fall, some were modified, create uncertainty for businesses in Canada.
Another item to note was Legislation on pay equity for federal and federally-regulated employees: this was not costed in budget
ON BALANCING THE BUDGET
The continued deficit budget is concerning. The 2015 election campaign promised to eliminate the deficit by 2019. The concern is that the federal budget is running successive annual deficits.
ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE
Middle class growth and economic success depend not only on the hard work of Canadians, but also on the opportunities created by strengthening our trade connections in an increasingly globalized world. Through Budget 2018, the Government is committed to deepening Canada’s trade relationships with modern, progressive free trade agreements, including a firm commitment to advancing a new and modernized North American Free Trade Agreement, maximizing new opportunities offered by the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the signing of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the pursuit of new relationships with other large and emerging markets.
The Surrey Board of Trade is calling for a contingency fund to prepare for global economic uncertainty (that means the federal government needs to reduce their deficits and create revenue opportunities). Maybe that will happen with the legalization of cannabis.
ON WORKFORCE SKILLS DEVELOPMENT & EDUCATION
This was a good approach to workforce development.
The Government is doubling the work placements for youth through the Canada Summer Jobs program in 2019–20, providing new funding to modernize the Youth Employment Strategy, and introducing a new Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women, a five-year pilot project providing up to $6,000 over two years to women entering male-dominated Red Seal trades. This, in combination with the Apprenticeship Completion Grant, will provide up to $8,000 to women completing their apprenticeship training in those often better-paid trades. Underrepresented groups, including women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities and newcomers, would also benefit from a new Pre-Apprenticeship Program that would help them explore the trades, gain work experience, make informed career choices and develop the skills needed to succeed.
The creation of a new Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program, which would provide distinctions-based support for First Nations, the Métis Nation and Inuit, as well as urban and non-affiliated Indigenous Peoples. These investments will support Indigenous Peoples to develop employment skills and pursue training for lasting employment.
There is an agreement between the Federal Government and the provinces & territories on how cannabis revenues will be distributed. In the recent BC Budget, about $50 million is anticipated in the first year (2018/19) growing to $75 million in following years.
“Our policy had asked for clarity on how cannabis in the workplace will be handled – what does impairment look like from an employer/employee perspective and how will that impact productivity,” said Huberman. “What I see in the budget is what we saw in the task force report – an emphasis on road impairment and youth consumption. While laudable, it doesn’t meet businesses needs for clarity and the research required.”
ON CRIME, CYBER CRIME
Investments to cyber security are needed. Canada needs to be a leader in this area.
Cyber-attacks are changing, becoming ever more sophisticated and effective, and have the potential to expose the private information of Canadians and cost Canadian businesses millions of dollars. To help improve the cyber resilience of Canadians when they use digital technologies, and to bolster Canada’s cyber security posture, Budget 2018 proposes significant investments.
“In order to Surrey’s economy to thrive, it takes all three levels of government working together to ensure that their programs, policies, and taxes are not onerous on our business community,” observed CEO Anita Huberman. “To that end, we looked to the Federal Budget to reduce red-tape, ensure tax fairness, and to provide the funding supports for necessary social and transportation infrastructure.”
“Overall we are facing global economic uncertainty in the face of NAFTA and the US tax reform plan. This budget did not go far enough to address this uncertainty for support and attract business.”