Budget 2019: Relentlessly “middle class”

A pre-election budget is usually just that, a pre-election budget. It is a document that ‘sets the table’ for a government heading into an election as this government will be in the Fall. Core constituencies, regional or demographic (e.g. “Working Canadians”, “Families”, “Taxpayers”) are usually the focus. This time it is relentlessly “the middle class”.

But this Budget doesn’t just stop there. Youth, the newly unemployed, Indigenous communities, women, seniors and many more sub groups will find something to like here. Cities get more money for transit, ferry services in the Atlantic are funded, rural communities get high speed internet, cultural gateway projects in B.C. get funded, student loan terms are eased and first time home buyers get help dealing with all the consequences from earlier government initiatives! There is significant funding to provide financial support for the agricultural sector in Quebec and Ontario impacted by the new trade agreement with the United States and Mexico. There are literally dozens and dozens of targeted initiatives and much accumulated additional spending.

This Budget however isn’t only about setting the table for an election, it is also about changing the subject. The Liberal government has endured months of scrutiny for how it has handled the SNC matter and really needs to find a way to move on. There are no dramatic initiatives in this Budget to do that; but much ink is spilled cataloging and checking off accomplishments to date and as noted above, providing a little something for everyone.

This is also decidedly an unapologetically “Liberal” budget; its climate, Indigenous, education, health and gender initiatives set up to contrast with what might be the priorities of a Conservative election platform. Critics will argue that this Budget has the Liberals fiddling while Saskatchewan and Alberta’s energy sector is burning.

There is more spending than some will like and no serious discussion of addressing the debt overhang. As we head into what will likely be a recession in 2019/20, the Government of Canada, whatever its stripe, will need fiscal room to act and absent hoped for growth, it will not have much space to maneuver .

Themes and initiatives in Budget 2019 include:

  • The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive that allows buyers to share the cost of a home (up to 10%) with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. through a shared-equity mortgage;
  • $35 million to establish the Canadian Drug Agency to manage federal pharmacare, with further details to be released Summer 2019;
  • $130 million over 5 years to install new recharging and refuelling stations for electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles;
  • $300 million over three years for an incentive of up to $5,000 for people buying electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles with a retail price under $45,000;
  • Creation of an Anti-Money Laundering Action and Coordination Team (ACE) pilot program to bring together Canadian law enforcement and intelligence agencies to share information;
  • Over $1 billion to the Green Municipal Fund to help homeowners with retrofitting their homes, to provide financing to improve energy efficiency in affordable housing developments and to make large community buildings for efficient;
  • New personal tax credit on Canadian digital news subscriptions for a $75 maximum annual credit;
  • The Canada Training Credit to help workers pay for training costs – eligible workers would accumulate $250 in training credits annually, with a lifetime total of $5,000;
  • $4.7 billion in new measures for “Advancing Reconciliation” with Indigenous communities, including increasing children’s access to social, education and health services;
  • Up to $1 billion over two years (starting 2022-2023) to help Canadians with rare diseases access the drugs they need.

For more information on the 2019 Budget, please contact:

Barry Campbell: barry@campbellstrategies.com
T: 416-368-7353 x 101