Budget includes money for SM, national food policy, rural high-speed internet

The Trudeau government rolled out its pre-election budget Tuesday, promising to boost access to broadband internet, fund a national food policy and compensate Canadian dairy, egg and poultry farmers for trade concessions made on supply management.

The government has committed $3.9 billion in compensation in Budget 2019 for concessions made on supply management in the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The $3.9 billion in funding includes $2.15 billion in direct compensation in addition to the $250 million in innovation finding already distributed to the dairy industry for CETA concessions. Another $1.5 billion has been pledged for a Quota Value Guarantee Program that would be triggered on an on-demand bases when quota is sold.

No timeline for the compensation was provided. Morneau told reporters more details will be unveiled at a later date. The compensation does not extend to concessions made under the Canada – United States – Mexico Trade Agreement.

The Trudeau government has also committed $134.4 million for a national food policy, a campaign promise for the party in 2015. The policy will be rolled out over five years, starting next year.

The food policy, which comes after several years of public consultation, includes $20 million over five years in new funding to tackle food waste, $25 million over five years for a Buy Canadian program geared at promoting agriculture products at home and abroad, and $50 million over five years for a new Local Food Infrastructure Fund.

Another $15 million in funding over the same time frame has been earmarked to support community-led agriculture projects in Northern and isolated communities, including community freezers, greenhouses and local food production projects and skills training for Indigenous food producers.

As for broadband internet, a long-standing frustration for Canadian farmers and rural folk, the federal government is investing $1.7 billion in new infrastructure and satellite technology. The new Universal Broadband Fund builds off commitments made by the Liberal government in 2018.

Meanwhile the Trudeau government’s Infrastructure Bank will aim to invest $1 billion over the next ten year on the broadband issue, while leveraging at least another $2 billion in additional private sector investment.

The goal, is to have 100 per cent high-speed connectivity by 2030, regardless of where a person might live.

That target is five years behind the goal laid out in the agriculture economic strategy table reports, released in September, which had called for 100 per cent connectivity by 2025.

Ongoing efforts to streamline Canadian regulations, notably within the agriculture and agri-food sector, are also continuing. Tuesday’s budget including additional funding for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Transport Canada and Health Canada to develop regulator roadmaps that will include digitizing CFIA’s export certification system and updating the Canada Grains Act. More details about the roadmaps are expected in the coming weeks.

An improved regulator environment was also a key recommendation from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table which called on the federal government to adopt a more agile regulatory environment that was more business friendly. The report specifically singled out updating the Canada Grains Act, which hasn’t been updated in decades, in its recommendations.

However, it’s worth noting Tuesday’s federal budget does not adopt the new export target suggested by the Agriculture and Agri-Food Economic Strategy, released last September, that called on the agriculture industry to grow its exports to $85 billion by 2025.

The current target, set at $75 billion by the Trudeau government, was laid out in Budget 2016.

As for mental health, while Budget 2019 does not include specific programming targeting Canada’s agriculture sector, the government’s fiscal plan does includes a commitment to provide $25 million over five years, starting next year, to develop a pan-Canadian suicide prevention strategy.

The strategy would give Canadians in crisis access to a 24/7, billingual crisis support from trained professionals. The hotline would be accessible by talk, text or chat.

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