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In what was widely expected to be a pre-election “bag of goodies” for voters, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau released the federal government’s 2019 Budget in the House of Commons.  Labelled “Investing in the Middle Class,” the plan is clearly designed to position the Liberal government favourably with voters in anticipation of the election currently scheduled for October 21, 2019.  The budget features some fresh new spending promises (but little in terms of new tax legislation) benefitting seniors, new home buyers, purchasers of electric vehicles and all Canadians who access high-speed internet.  HRAI will be sifting through the budget for measures that will be helpful to members, but in the initial review, there appear to be some elements that may be of interest to HRAI members.

Investing in Energy Efficiency

The first potential benefit is the planned $1.01 billion investment this year in increasing energy efficiency in residential, commercial and multi-unit buildings. The funds will be delivered via the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM)[1] through their Green Municipal Fund.  Within this allocation are the following elements:

  • Community focused retrofit supports will get $350 million;
  • Another $300 million will go to “Community EcoEfficiency Acceleration,” which will support municipal initiatives to support home energy retrofits. Homeowners could qualify for assistance in replacing furnaces with renewable technologies.
  • $300 million will also go to “Sustainable Affordable Housing Innovation,” to provide financing and support to affordable housing developments to improve energy efficiency in new and existing housing and support on-site energy generation

Depending on the details of program design, HRAI members may see some stimulus to encourage energy efficiency retrofits.  HRAI will be seeking further information on these measures in the weeks to come.

FCM will also be getting a $2.2 billion infrastructure infusion this year based on the Gas Tax. 

Investing in Skills (Re-)Training

The budget proposes to establish a new “Canada Training Benefit”— a personalized, portable training benefit intended to help people plan for and get the training they need in a changing marketplace. To deliver this new program, government plans to invest more than $1.7 billion over five years, and $586.5 million per year ongoing, including in the following programs:

  • Canada Training Credit: a new, non-taxable credit to help Canadians with the cost of training fees.  Eligible workers between the ages of 25 and 64 can accumulate a credit balance at a rate of $250 per year up to a lifetime limit of $5,000 with credits used to refund up to half the costs of taking a course or enrolling in a training program at colleges, universities and eligible institutions providing occupational skills training starting in 2020.
  • The Employment Insurance (EI) Training Support Benefit will provide workers with up to four weeks of income support through the EI system within a four-year period. Expected to launch in late 2020, this benefit would help workers on training leave to cover living expenses, such as rent, utilities and groceries. The amount of support available will be equal to 55% of a person’s average weekly earnings.  This benefit is expected to be available in late 2020.
  • Budget 2019 also introduces an “EI Small Business Premium Rebate” for businesses paying EI premiums equal to or less than $20,000 per year. This rebate is also expected to start in 2020 to alleviate the impact of the EI Training Support Benefit for small businesses.
  • The government also proposes to consult with provinces and territories on changes to leave provision in labour legislation, to protect jobs for people wishing to take the time they need for training.

To encourage more young people to consider training and work in the skilled trades, the Government intends to provide Skills Canada—a national organization dedicated to encouraging young people to consider careers in the skilled trades and technology—with $40 million over four years, starting in 2020–21, and $10 million per year ongoing.  This investment will enable Skills Canada to continue to encourage and support a coordinated approach to promoting skilled trades and technologies to young people through skills competitions and by providing resources to better equip them for careers in the skilled trades.

As a further support to promoting careers in trades, the Government also proposes to invest $6 million over two years, starting in 2019–20, to create a national campaign to promote the skilled trades as a first-choice career for young people. The campaign will work to change the perception around careers in the skilled trades, promoting their merits, including high demand, high wages, and continual professional development.

Support for Regulatory Harmonization

The Budget expresses support in a number of ways for regulatory harmonization efforts which are important to HRAI manufacturers and distributos, both internally within Canada through the Canada Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) and with the US through the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC): 

The Government is working with provinces and territories to better harmonize regulations across provincial and territorial boundaries, opening up the door to more seamless internal trade. Canada also has an opportunity to harmonize regulations with its international trading partners, making Canada an even more attractive place to invest in and grow a business. The Government does this through a number of regulatory cooperation bodies, for example, the Canadian Free Trade Agreement Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table, the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council and the Regulatory Cooperation Forum of the Canada- European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

Budget 2019 will provide $3.1 million per year in ongoing funding to the Treasury Board Secretariat, starting in 2020–21, to support its leadership of the Government’s regulatory cooperation priorities at home and abroad.

Prompt Payment

Another important theme for contractor members -- prompt payment legislation -- will be addressed as part of the Budget Implementation Act.  The government proposes to introduce legislation that would “ensure that payments flow down the construction supply chain promptly and to provide for an effective adjudicative mechanism when they do not, thus facilitating the orderly and timely building of federal construction projects on federal property.”

Other Matters

Most of the themes touched on by HRAI’s pre-budget submission have been addressed in some fashion by the 2019 federal budget, though a more thorough analysis of the details will be needed to fully support this conclusion.  One matter still to be determined is whether the budget will support the $20 million needed to support the roll-out of the “Market Transformation Roadmap” that was developed by NRCan in consultation with the provinces and the space and water heating industry.  HRAI’s members have a great deal of interest in this plan and ensuring that it gets appropriate funding.

Stay tuned for more information to come on these matters.

For more information, contact Martin Luymes at 1-800-267-2231 ext. 235 or email mluymes@hrai.ca.