Four things you might have missed in fiscal update
• The federal government released its fall economic statement Wednesday, the mid-year update on its budget projections.
Here are a few things that appeared in the fiscal update beyond the headlines.
When political and legal obstacles prompted Kinder Morgan to back away from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in the spring, the Liberal government made a controversial decision to buy the project for $4.5 billion and shepherd it through construction.
The government intends to find a private-sector owner for the pipeline once it’s been expanded. But in the meantime, the existing pipeline is generating income that now goes into public coffers. The Fall Economic Statement shows the government has already earned $70 million, and is on track to earn up to $200 million annually.
FREE THE BEER?
The fiscal update says the federal government has set four priorities when it comes to reducing barriers to interprovincial trade — and booze gets particular emphasis.
“Barriers to the movement of alcohol across borders have become a symbol of the friction in trade between provinces and territories,” the document says. It also identifies the construction sector, food regulations, and the transportation of goods as areas of concern.
Of course, this is far from the first time that Canadian politicians have promised to improve interprovincial trade, and progress remains slow. But after the Supreme Court of Canada declined earlier this year to strike down interprovincial trade barriers, the only way to “free the beer” in Canada is through political will.
SLUGGISH INFRASTRUCTURE SPENDING
In the 2015 election, the Liberals made massive infrastructure spending one of their signature campaign promises. Phase one of the funding, $14.4 billion, was announced in Budget 2016. Phase two, a further $81.2 billion, was announced the following year. But the fall economic statement shows that just $6 billion has actually been spent so far, out of $13 billion committed to specific projects. The holdup is that the money can’t go out the door until the federal government gets receipts from the local governments building the projects.
The government does, however, now have agreements signed with every province and territory to make $33 billion available for community infrastructure projects.
Last year the government created an advisory group to develop a strategy for social finance, which is shorthand for investment opportunities that have a larger social or environment benefit.
The fall economic statement announces a $755 million social finance fund over 10 years, aimed at supporting projects that are “not yet viable in the commercial market.” As one example of what it could support, it points to a proposed expansion of a program in Quebec that provides mortgage loans to residents of Indigenous communities.
The ultimate goal is to create a social finance market in Canada that doesn’t need ongoing government support, the document says.