Four things you might have missed in fis­cal up­date

Calgary Herald - - CANADA - Brian Platt Na­tional Post [email protected]­media.com

• 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.

PIPE­LINE PROF­ITS

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.

SO­CIAL FI­NANCE

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.

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