The federal government is finding ways to spend $19 billion more than promised during the election campaign last fall. Some of that money will be spent in agriculture-related areas.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s first budget, unveiled Tuesday, projects a $29.4 billion deficit in 2016-17 — well beyond the $10 billion deficit outlined by the Liberals leading up to the party’s election victory.
Here are some of the ag-related pieces in the budget:
- $30 million over six years, starting in 2016-17, for ag genomic research through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
- $41.5 million in cash, starting in 2016-17, for the “rehabilitation and modernization” of AAFC and Canadian Food Inspection Agency research stations and labs in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.
- Over $1 billion over four years, starting in 2017-18, to support clean technology in the forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and agriculture sectors.
- $38.5 million over two years, starting in 2016-17, for the CFIA for inspection of highest-risk domestic and imported foods.
- $500 million over five years, starting in 2016–17, for a new program to extend and enhance broadband service in rural and remote communities.
- Extended Employment Insurance coverage of up to a maximum of 70 weeks in 12 regions affected by a sharp rise in unemployment due to the decline in oil prices — mainly in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.
- A commitment to work with the Saskatchewan government to transfer federally-owned dams to the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency.
- Plans to launch public consultations on eliminating tariffs on imported food manufacturing ingredients other than supply-managed products.
- Plans to take steps over the next year to change food labels to provide more information on added sugars and artificial dyes.
Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay discussed the federal budget with Kelvin Heppner.
Conservative agriculture critic Chris Warkentin called the budget a “slap-in-the-face” to the agriculture and agri-food sector.
“The Finance Minister seems to have found money for everything else but our hardworking farm families,” said the Alberta MP.
Warkentin said the Liberals missed an opportunity in the budget to address the following issues:
- Measures to support Canadian producers and exporters into the U.S. that would address their financial losses after coverage under Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act ceased;
- Investments in infrastructure to improve the movement of grain by rail to market, including short-line rail spurs (a commitment in the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to the minister), inland and port loading terminals (mandate letter commitment), and improvements to the fleet of government owned grain cars;
- Plans to address the issue of diafiltered milk, an issue Warkentin says the Conservatives were ready to move on immediately after the election;
- Solutions to fix the chronic labour shortages in the agricultural sector. The budget contained no information on changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program;
- Commitments to reinstate measures in the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, which expire this summer, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership/Canada-EU trade agreement compensation framework for dairy and poultry producers;
- Restoration of conditional licensing for pesticides in Canada, without which Warkentin says potato and grain farmers will be negatively affected; and,
- A simpler framework allowing farmers to enact better succession planning.
“Every year, Canadian agriculture accounts for more than $100 billion in economic activity and employs more than two million Canadians from coast to coast,” noted Warkentin. “Yet the Liberal Party continues to ignore the reality that our farm families feed and fuel this country and significantly impact the economic well-being of our nation.”
Read the Liberals’ entire 2016-17 budget plan here.