The Canadian Construction Association (CCA), reacting to Budget 2008 as delivered by federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in Ottawa on February 26, described it as “hit and miss” when it came to the priorities of the Canadian construction industry.
CCA was pleased that Minister Flaherty announced that the federal Gas Tax Fund was to be made permanent. At present, the Gas Tax Fund was set to expire after fiscal year 2013-14. CCA was also pleased with the announcement of a $330 million fund over the next two years for a First Nations water and wastewater program (something advocated for by CCA), as well as a new $500 million third party trust fund for public transit. Also of significance was the announcement concerning a new stand alone Employment Insurance Account, as well as an improved EI premium rate-setting mechanism which will allow rates to be truly set on a breakeven basis.
However, CCA was disappointed that the Budget did nothing to address the pressing human resource needs facing the construction sector and other industries at large. The Budget did nothing to increase trades training capacity in the Canadian college system, and made only a vague promise to continue reforms to the immigration system to facilitate the entry of permanent and temporary foreign workers.
“There were some small victories for the Canadian construction industry in Budget 2008,” stated Michael Atkinson, president of the Canadian Construction Association. “Reforms to the Employment Insurance system and rate-setting process are clearly steps in the right direction for the business community. Furthermore, the announcement regarding the permanency of the Gas Tax Fund, and the First Nations water infrastructure program, both of which were called for by CCA, are good news. However, the lack of any substantial announcements regarding the human resources needs of our industry, especially increasing trades training in the college system, was clearly lacking from this Budget”, he added.
A summary of measures contained in Budget 2008 that will directly impact the construction industry can be obtained from the CCA website – www.cca-acc.com