Canada pledges over $1 billion to protect nature and wildlife

Canadian Press  Justin Tange                       Minister of Finance Bill Morneau participates in a post-budget discussion at the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa

The Canadian Union of Public Employees criticized the budget for "maintaining a tax bias that hurts Canadian businesses", particularly in the cultural sector.

"We will be vigilant in making sure Canada remains the best place to invest, create jobs and do business - and we will do this in a responsible and careful way, letting evidence, and not emotion, guide our decisions".

Speaking Friday in Montreal, Morneau said all that matters to him is having the experts come up with ways to ensure Canadians obtain the medications they need. While investors were looking for the government to improve the business tax regime, the budget's most notable tax measure clarifies new rules on passive investments in private corporations.

There is, for instance, "uncertainty regarding the outcome of North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations as well as a notable shift towards more protectionism globally".

To get any growth beyond that, the Liberals are relying heavily on government spending. In the current fiscal year, which ends on March 31, the deficit is now projected at $19.4-billion, down from the $28.5-billion originally projected in the 2017 budget.

The budget plan includes only a brief reference, saying the government will conduct a detailed analysis "over the coming months" to assess the US changes.

It's the biggest ticket item in the Liberals' new push for science and technology development, one of the main themes in Finance Minister Bill Morneau's third budget. The new benefit will cost roughly C$300 million per year and be funded entirely by employment insurance premiums, which may rise in coming years as a result.

In an attempt to narrow that gap, today's federal budget has promised to move forward with new proactive pay equity legislation.

The budget maintains a C$3 billion annual risk cushion.

Canada's next election isn't until 2019, but this budget has plenty of political overtones.

Another 1.2 billion dollars would be applied over five years to provide five weeks of paid parental leave for fathers, and non-birth partners, including same-sex partners. Last fall, an analysis by the parliamentary budget officer estimated it could cost $19 billion a year. Former Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins will lead the effort.

Sahir Khan, executive vice-president of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy, said the Canadian government traditionally has been very careful about sharing confidential information.

A civil liberties advocate accuses the government of using the budget to hide controversial changes to Canada's Criminal Code.

And with new incentives in the USA for intellectual property, marketing and other intangibles to be created and held there, I'm already hearing about innovative companies deciding to move their labs and sales forces to the United States from Canada and Europe.

The issue has been particularly heated in Quebec, where there has been vocal criticism of the Liberals' 2017 agreement with Netflix, which allows the USA web-streaming giant to forgo paying sales tax by investing $500 million in Canadian productions over the next five years.

Continuation of the dangerously precedent-setting escalator tax on alcohol is also disappointing.

Morneau said the goal isn't simply fairness - it's also to shield Canada's long-term growth and labour market from the effects of a changing demographic.

There's also a commitment of $1.5 billion for First Nations health care, and the breakdown includes $498 million, with $97.6 million per year ongoing, to sustain access to critical medical care and services, including 24/7 nursing services in 79 remote and isolated First Nations communities.

At the same time as he has shored up the Liberal-voting constituency that worries about such ephemera as runaway spending and debt repayment, the finance minister has presented a blueprint to appease the Liberals' bleeding-heart base.