The federal budget was delivered March 22nd and as Hendrik Brakel from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce writes, “Budget 2017 is completely different [from 2016]-big deficits and economic uncertainty mean there is not much money for new programs or big announcements. But, there is far more detail around previously announced policies and programs.”
Having the opportunity, through the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, to be in the budget lock up for economists I had the opportunity to pour over the budget for about five hours.
Well, at the outset there are a couple of really key messages that fit right in Peterborough’s bailiwick. The first chapter of the budget starts by laying out the government’s Innovation and Skills Plan. Now, details are still to flow about this plan, but the fact that the federal government is talking about sectors that Peterborough is focussed on, such as clean tech, agri-food, and advanced manufacturing, is a good place to be.
But, as we know, the devil is in the details. So, what are the details that impact Peterborough?
Budget Initiative: Superclusters: $950 million over five years will be provided on a competitive basis to support a small number of innovative industries. The competition to determine which clusters to support will be private-sector led and will launch in 2017. These clusters could be advanced manufacturing, agri-food, digital technology, etc.
Peterborough Perspective: The three suggested cluster sectors can be found in the strategic plan for
Peterborough Economic Development (PED) and are also closely aligned with the work of the Innovation Cluster. As such, it would seem that a Peterborough supercluster could fit nicely with the goals of the federal government.
Budget Initiative: Suite of funds for innovation including clean tech, strategic innovation and venture capital: The opportunities are for a range of businesses for scaling up; those specific to clean tech; and the innovation fund, which includes a focus on aerospace (another economic sector pillar under PED).
Peterborough Perspective: Again, these types of programs and incentives speak to the core of what’s
happening in the Peterborough economy right now. It will be important to see further details so that our Peterborough startups and young companies can take advantage.
Budget Initiative: VIA Rail will receive $867 million over three years for operating and capital needs.
Peterborough Perspective: While there is no mention specifically of the proposed High Frequency Rail project, the longer term funding for VIA Rail gives them the opportunity to focus on such projects. The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce stresses the importance of this project to the economy of the city and county, in that high frequency rail will open the area to new possibilities. We are also excited that the type of train VIA wants to use will have limited environmental impact.
Budget Initiative: Innovative Solutions Canada Program: This will start next year and is modelled after the U.S. Small Business Innovation Research program. A portion of the $50-million funding from federal departments and agencies will be allocated towards early-stage research and development, late-stage prototypes and other goods and services from Canadian innovators and entrepreneurs.
The hope is that the government will have access to the latest, most innovative products and services.
Effort will also be made to encourage procurement from companies led by women and other underrepresented groups. Further details about initial participation and spending targets will follow in the coming months.
Peterborough Perspective: Given the appetite for innovation and entrepreneurship in Peterborough, there are many companies that could take advantage of this program in the coming years. This kind of investment by a government goes a long way to giving a product or service some clout in the early going. This type of program was also encouraged by the Canadian Chamber and its Chamber Network.
Budget Initiative: New permits and processing time under the Global Skills Strategy: Budget 2017 provides significant commitment to improving the access to talent from abroad including:
Budget Initiative: More money for workplace-integrated learning: $225 million over five years is earmarked to increase the number of workplace-integrated learning spaces from 3,750 to 10,000 per year for post-secondary students and graduates.
Renewal of the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS): $50 million in 2017–18 and the reallocation of resources from other programming that support skills and training more generally.
Peterborough Perspective: Over the past five years or so there has been a constant call for more integration between post-secondary institutions and employers. This opportunity could be very beneficial to strengthening these ties in Peterborough. The government is also looking to increase the number of part-time students, which could have a beneficial impact on the post-secondary institutions and the Peterborough knowledge base.
There are some items that were increased, eliminated or require more detail: