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Fall Economic Statement

The Fall Economic Statement (FES) comes at a time when the Liberal Government is fighting to keep its head above turbulent political water. The Conservative Party enjoys a 15-point polling lead. Canadians are frustrated by, and tired of a housing market they consider inaccessible; consumer prices they see as out of control; and an economy they believe favours only the country’s wealthiest. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister and Finance Minister have acknowledged the fiscal capacity required for them to manage these challenges is increasingly narrow. They have few levers to pull. The FES’ narrow focus–housing affordability, controlling inflation, and building a fair economy–shows how fine a line the Liberal Government must walk.

Key Elements for the CPWA

The FES did not offer any update on the planned “next generation” of infrastructure programming that former Minister Leblanc had signaled in June would be coming this fall. On this, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities put out a statement that they are “concerned that Ottawa didn’t include infrastructure spending to help close the housing supply gap. The federation is looking to next spring’s budget for a ‘comprehensive, ambitious investment in community infrastructure that matches the record-breaking population growth currently underway in Canada.’” Of interest, however, the FES did include the following:

  • The government proposes to introduce the Canada Water Agency Act to establish the stand-alone Canada Water Agency, which will contribute to sustainable and coordinated freshwater management across Canada.
  • The government proposes to introduce legislation that would establish the Department of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities (currently Infrastructure Canada) and clarify the department’s powers, duties, and functions.
  • The Canada Infrastructure Bank is exploring further ways to support the needs of communities seeking to develop the infrastructure required to build more homes. Details on this work will be announced by Budget 2024.
  • The FES reaffirms the federal government’s intention to tie access to federal infrastructure funding to actions by provinces, territories, and municipalities to increase housing supply where it makes sense to do so.
Housing Affordability

The top priority in the FES is housing affordability, mentioned 217 times in the FES document. Housing affordability measures include:

  • $4 billion for a Housing Accelerator Fund, to help cut red tape and build more than 100,000 new homes.
  • Releasing federal lands to build 4,500 homes on.
  • Removing the GST from new rental housing, including for co-operative housing corporations.
  • $20 billion in low-cost financing for rental construction to build up to 30,000 more homes/year.
  • $15 billion for loans from the Apartment Construction Loan Program, to build 30,000 new rental homes.
  • $1 billion for the Affordable Housing Fund to support 7,000 homes for vulnerable Canadians.

While these measures may help increase the supply of housing, the question remains–will Canadians see the benefits in time for these measures to enhance Liberal prospects when the next election comes?

So What?

At first glance, Government’s focus on the big irritants in Canadian’s lives seems on target. You want action on housing? It has a plan. You want action on consumer prices? It has initiatives. You want an economy that works for everyone? It has ambitions. Pull back the layers, however, and it becomes unclear if, and how, these initiatives will make things better. Most can be summarized in the one or two sentence legislative amendments they will result in during implementation. And while we can’t know how they will impact Canadian pocketbooks; we do know their effect on public finances. Except for fiscal 2022/2023 and 2023/2024, deficits in Canada will grow; and extend further into the future. The Conservatives will say: the more things change, the more they stay the same. When the Liberals wake up tomorrow, it will be with the same political problems they had yesterday.


Flood and Drought Forecasting Bill Debated in the House

Private member’s Bill C-317 that “provides for the development of a national strategy to provide key stakeholders with the information they need to forecast floods and droughts” saw its first hour of debate at second reading on Friday, November 24. An additional hour will be needed before it goes to a vote in the House which would either defeat the bill, or send it to the House Environment Committee for further study, which CPWA would engage in.

Upcoming House Debates

  • Next week, debate on the Fall Economic Statement will continue.
  • Monday, November 27: Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Canada Industrial Relations Board Regulations, 2012
  • Tuesday, November 28: Opposition Day
  • Wednesday, November 29: Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act

Committee Updates

Freshwater Study Underway at House Environment Committee

The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development is continuing its study on freshwater, with their sixth meeting on the subject on Thursday, November 23. The study is looking at multiple aspects, including the Canada Water Act; the relationship between the federal government and the provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, and local governments relating to freshwater protection and management; as well as present and future research needs relating to freshwater management and protection.

Departmental Updates

Wastewater Upgrades for Sea to Sky Country, BC

On November 15, MP Patrick Weiler announced that communities in Sea to Sky Country will see upgrades and replacements to aging wastewater infrastructure that will accommodate future growth, thanks to a combined investment of more than $11.1 million from the Government of Canada, the Government of British Columbia, the District of Squamish, and the Sunshine Coast Regional District.

CIB Expanding EV Charging Infrastructure

On November 16, the Canada Infrastructure Bank announced an up to $210 million financing agreement with Parkland to strategically expand its electric vehicle (EV) charging network in communities across Canada. The agreement paves the way for the installation of up to 2,000 new charging ports at up to 400 sites.

Solar Power Investment in Oakville, Ontario

On November 16, Minister Anita Anand announced the Oakville Trafalgar Community Centre (OTCC) is more energy efficient and costs less to run with the installation of a solar power system on the community centre and parking garage roof. Thanks to the combined investment of more than $1.6 million from the federal government and the Town of Oakville.

Public Transit Investment in Saskatoon

On November 16, Minister Jenna Sudds announced that five infrastructure projects in Saskatoon will increase access to leisure activities, as well as high frequency and reliable transit thanks to the combined investment of more than $151.9 million from the governments of Canada and Saskatchewan, along with the City of Saskatoon. Development of Saskatoon’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) will be launched with four different projects. The City will also receive funding to construct a new leisure centre in the Holmwood Sector.

Bridge Funding over the Kicking Horse River in BC

Two bridges crossing Kicking Horse River will receive upgrades that make them more resilient to the impacts of climate change, thanks to a combined investment of more than $89.6 million from the governments of Canada and British Columbia. Announced by Member of Parliament John Aldag and Minister Rob Fleming, this project will reduce the risk of damage to essential infrastructure in Golden caused by climate-related events. Kicking Horse Bridges 1 and 2 cross the river on Highway 95 and act as the sole link for vehicles between the north and south sides of Golden.

Funding for Four Public Transit Projects in Trois-Rivières

The Société de transport de Trois-Rivières (STTR) is one step closer to the complete electrification of its bus fleet, thanks to a federal investment of more than $33.2 million from the Government of Canada to support four public transit projects in Trois-Rivières. Announced by Minister Sean Fraser, Minister Pablo Rodriguez, and the Chairman for STTR’s Board of Directors, Michel Byette, these projects will benefit the community by improving the current public transit network to make it more reliable, efficient, and greener.

Transit Centre Upgrades in Port Coquitlam

More transit users will benefit from improved transit infrastructure in Port Coquitlam, thanks to the combined investment of $31.1 million from the Government of Canada and TransLink. Announced by MP Ron McKinnon, MLA Mike Farnworth, and Kevin Quinn, CEO of TransLink, this project will upgrade the Port Coquitlam Transit Centre (PTC) and provide commuters with improved transportation options.

Causeway Improvements in East Chester, Nova Scotia

The Graves Island Provincial Park causeway will be widened and raised thanks to a combined investment of $2 million from the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia. Announced by Minister Sean Fraser and Minister Tory Rushton, this project will significantly reduce economic losses and maintain access to the island via the causeway.

Wastewater Enhancements in Daajing Giids, BC

Daajing Giids will improve compliance with regulatory wastewater requirements and enhance its capacity to protect fish and shellfish habitat, thanks to the combined investment of more than $1.5 million from the governments of Canada and British Columbia and the Village of Daajing Giids. Announced by Minister Sean Fraser, Minister Anne Kang, and Mayor Lisa Pineault, this project will safeguard the health of the community and nearby ecosystems.

Funding for New Roundabout in Truro, Nova Scotia

There will be a new roundabout at the intersection of McClures Mills Road and Willow Street in Truro thanks to the combined investment of $2.8 million from the Government of Canada, the Government of Nova Scotia, and the Town of Truro. Announced by David Ritcey, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River, and Bill Mills, Mayor of the Town of Truro, this project will ensure a safer and quicker commute for residents of Truro.