Questions of clean energy, affordability loom large as Ottawa preps for budget day
Passage of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act has sparked concern about Canadian competitiveness
With U.S. President Joe Biden's visit in the rearview window, attention in Ottawa is now turning to the next major event on the political calendar: the release of the federal budget on Tuesday.
Among the many topics discussed by Canadian and American officials during the presidential visit was clean technology and the growth of the green economy. Biden touted cooperation on things like semiconductor manufacturing and critical minerals, going so far as to offer American cash for mining projects.
Clean technology and manufacturing is also expected to be a major pillar of the federal budget that will be presented by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on Tuesday. Sources have told CBC News that the budget will focus on three main areas: affordability, the clean economy and health-care funding.
Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Sunday that Freeland would look to strike a balance between spending relief for struggling Canadians and forward-looking investments.
"Minister Freeland, the prime minister will focus on making life more affordable for Canadians, but at the same time investing in our future. You've seen, for example, recent investments, the discussion on semiconductors, critical minerals, the electric vehicle. So there's going to be a balance of helping people and making sure that Canada can succeed in the economy of the 21st century," he told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.
How the budget will actually encourage clean growth is unclear. Canada recently signed a major agreement to bring a Volkswagen battery plant to Ontario, but it has not released what the agreement will cost the government. Champagne said the federal government would disclose the number in "due course" but did not confirm it would be obvious in the budget.
The government argues it is not wise to release the number as it is in the midst of negotiations with other companies.
Champagne also did not confirm a report from Reuters released earlier this week that said the budget would include a 30 per cent investment tax credit for clean technology manufacturing.
The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States has put pressure on the federal government to remain competitive in the clean technology industry, with one Canadian official calling it a potential "black hole" for investment. Biden touted the legislation during his address to Parliament Friday.
"The Inflation Reduction Act ... represents the single largest commitment in tackling climate in our history. As a matter of fact, the single-largest investment in all of human history," Biden said.
"It's going to spur clean energy investments all over the world."
Opposition parties push for budget priorities
Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre told reporters Friday that if the government was serious about investments in clean jobs, it should first "do no harm."
"Right now our government is doing immense harm to the possibility of green jobs in this country," he said, citing lengthy permitting times for major infrastructure and problems making progress on projects like the Ring of Fire development in Ontario.
"A Poilievre government will get out of the way so Canadians can get things done and we can bring home the production of all kinds of energy to this country."
In a press conference earlier this month, Poilievre outlined the Conservatives' major priorities for the budget, including tax cuts for working Canadians, rules to cap government spending and removing red tape to create more affordable housing.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, speaking to Barton Sunday, also outlined some of his party's demands. The NDP, which is engaged in a confidence-and-supply agreement to keep the minority Liberal government afloat, has pushed for greater investments on dental care and pharmacare, along with expansions of some affordability measures like the GST rebate.
"We also want targeted measures to help people. Just give them a break. Give people a break with the cost of their groceries, their bills. And so that's something we also want to see — the GST rebate doubled again."
Singh also said that investments in things like infrastructure and major projects should come with "strings attached."
"It can't just be money given away without a guarantee that that creates a job in Canada, apprenticeships in Canada. We also want to see good union jobs as well," he said.
With files from Reuters and Karina Roman