Budget 2019 receives positive reaction from construction sector

Budget 2019
Cranes tower over CIBC Square, a $3 billion development on Bay Street in Toronto (file photo).

Budget 2019 has earned a mainly optimistic reaction from Canada’s construction industry.

On March 19, Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled the last budget before Canada’s next federal election.

Budget 2019 proposes a one-time transfer of $2.2 billion through the federal Gas Tax Fund to address short-term priorities in municipalities and First Nation communities. The cash will double the government’s commitment to municipalities and provide infrastructure funds for communities of all sizes nationwide.

Eligible categories for the top-up include roads and bridges, public transit, water treatment, sport and recreation and cultural and tourism. 

The deficit for this year is pegged at $19.8 billion, which is anticipated to decline to a deficit of $9.8 billion by 2024.

“AED commends Minister of Finance Bill Morneau and the government for tabling a budget that addresses many of the construction equipment industry’s priorities,” said Brian P. McGuire, AED’s president and CEO.

“Infrastructure investment and dealing with the skilled labour shortage are top issues for equipment dealers in Canada and the government has demonstrated a commitment to tackling these important matters. AED looks forward to continuing to work together to ensure continued growth and job creation in the construction equipment sector and Canada’s broader economy.”

Budget 2019 addresses labour shortage

To encourage more young people to consider training and work in the skilled trades, Budget 2019 proposes to provide Skills Canada with $40 million over four years, starting in 2020, and $10 million per year ongoing.

This investment will enable Skills Canada to encourage and support a coordinated approach to promoting skilled trades and technologies to youth through skills competitions and by providing resources to better equip them for careers in the skilled trades.

To bolster these efforts, the government also proposes to invest $6 million over two years, starting in 2019, to create a national campaign that promotes the skilled trades as a first-choice career for young people.

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The campaign will work to change the perception around careers in the skilled trades, promoting their merits, including high demand, high wages, and continual professional development.

In 2019, the government will appoint co-chairs to begin work on the campaign, lead initial consultations and explore partnerships to assist with promotion of the skilled trades.

“By creating workplace opportunities for students in construction during their studies, we hope to inspire the next generation who will build our future sustainable communities,” said Mary Van Bure, president of the Canadian Construction Association (CCA).  

Apprentice support

Budget 2019 also proposes to develop a new strategy to support apprentices and those employed in the skilled trades. The strategy aims to support existing programs, including the Apprenticeship Incentive and Completion Grants, address the barriers to entry and progression for those who want to work in the skilled trades, and support employers who face challenges in hiring and retaining apprentices.

‘’The CCA continues to applaud the efforts of the government on the Investing in Canada plan, particularly the $2.2 billion top-up to support municipal and local priorities,” Van Buren said. “We believe these proposed measures will indeed help ‘build a better Canada’ and look forward to working with the government on their timely adoption.”

Canada Training Benefit

Budget 2019 includes a new Canada Training Benefit to help people plan for, and secure, necessary training.

To deliver the new program, Budget 2019 proposes to invest more than $1.7 billion over five years, and $586.5 million per year ongoing. Eligible workers between 25 and 64 would accumulate a credit balance of $250 per year, up to a lifetime limit of $5,000.

The accumulated credit can be used to fund half the cost of training fees at colleges, universities and eligible institutions providing occupational skills training. Furthermore, workers will be able to use the new Employment Insurance (EI) Training Support Benefit, which provides up to four weeks of income support every four years to cover expenses while receiving training.

Tariffs

The Canadian Construction Association (CCA), however, said it is disappointed the federal government didn’t take more action to restore investor confidence in Canada.

“CCA had wished to see a fiscal remedy for the ongoing steel and aluminum tariffs, some relief for our heavy construction sector that is facing new challenges with carbon pricing, and a strong commitment to improving the flow of infrastructure funding,” said Mary Van Buren, president of the CCA.

Prompt payment

The National Trade Contractors Coalition of Canada (NTCCC) applauded the government’s move to make prompt payment the law on all federal government contracts in Canada.

“Trade contractors, tradespeople, suppliers and families in Canada’s construction sector have been waiting a long time for this,” said Sandra Skivsky, chair of NTCCC. “The government has listened to the concerns of trade contractors, suppliers and tradespeople, and is focused on making construction more efficient in Canada.”

Since the last election, NTCCC has led efforts to have prompt payment introduced federally. Canada has lagged behind other countries and now has the opportunity to learn from best practices internationally and domestically, according to the NTCCC.  

“Our coalition represents the largest trade contractor associations in Canada, who are responsible for over 80 per cent of the work performed in the construction sector,” Skivsky said. “To say we’re excited would be an understatement, but we are looking forward to seeing the drafted legislation and taking part in the process.”

Payment delays steadily increased in Canada since the economic downturn in 2008.

These bottlenecks have limited efficiency by slowing projects and increasing disputes between prime contractors and sub-contractors. The NTCCC has worked closely with Public Services and Procurement Canada, and Members of the House of Commons and Senate of Canada to build momentum for a made-in-Canada approach to legislating payment timeframes.

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