Canada’s Federal Budget: Recognizing the Role of Cities in Building Economic Prosperity-the Calgary Perspective

Author: Mary Moran  Date Posted: March 22 - 2016

Federal Budget 2016 was released Tuesday and with its focus aligned with the goals of Building on our Energy, the 10-year Economic Strategy for Calgary we are pleased to see the commitment to shared prosperity, building strong communities and a sustainable, diversified economy.

The budget has a strong emphasis on cities that are now home to more than 80 per cent of Canadians and Finance Minister Bill Morneau said it includes “important investments in the future of Canada.”

The Building on our Energy strategy was developed in 2014 with a strong focus on Calgary’s entrepreneurial energy to foster pathways to purposeful economic diversification and growth. We’re encouraged the budget supports high-potential industries identified in the strategy including transportation and logistics, clean technology, agribusiness and tourism.

Budget 2016 also increases funds for infrastructure and commits the government to spend $120 billion over 10 years on public transit and other areas. Improving the movement of people and goods is a priority in the Calgary region to advance our strategies as an “inland port” and designation as a Foreign Trade Zone.

The budget directs funds to enhance the clean technology and renewables sector including support for “green” municipal projects, technology development, electric vehicles and the infrastructure for alternative fuels. It offers tax incentives on clean technology and energy efficiency equipment.

The budget includes funding to grow the agriculture and agrifood sector and spur innovation, competitiveness and market development as was also identified in our strategy for the sector.

It recognizes the economic role of tourism and increases funding to Destination Canada to market Canada as a premier tourist destination.

The budget establishes an innovation agenda with more support for science and technology infrastructure, research programs and innovation networks. There is $800 million over four years to support innovation networks and clusters across the country.

It also seeks to support high-impact firms as they grow, help small and medium enterprise innovate and connect tech companies to global markets.

Innovative energy is also a pillar of Building on our Energy as Calgary works to foster a culture that solve problems through a systems approach the power of technology. The budget directs investment to post-secondary innovation infrastructure such as research labs, incubators and accelerators.

It provides support to youth employment, students, employment insurance and access to training and post-secondary institutions. This aligns with our focus on people by embracing social inclusion and prosperity. Calgary has one of the fastest-growing Aboriginal populations in Canada and Budget 2016 renews funding for the Urban Aboriginal Strategy.

As Calgary experiences a recession that's seen more than 20,000 people lose jobs in the energy sector, our training and post-secondary institutions are dealing with record demand. The budget improves access to training and education programs as well as bolstering youth employment, apprenticeship and co-operative work placements. For the unemployed, federal employment insurance benefits were retroactively extended in highly impacted areas, including Calgary.

The budget aligns with our WORKshift initiative with a commitment to flexible work programs for federally regulated employees.

Building on our Energy, the 10-year Economic Strategy was developed during a boom but even then it highlighted the need for diversification in good time and bad. The current recession reinforces the need for a diverse economy and we’re pleased with the alignment between Building on our Energy and Federal Budget 2016.

Mary Moran is President and Chief Executive Officer a the Calgary Economic Development.