Calgary's mayor, energy sector react to federal budget3/22/2013
Calgary's mayor says he likes much of what he sees in the federal budget for Canadian cities, which was released Thursday.
Naheed Nenshi says he is particularly pleased with Ottawa's decision to increase the amount of money cities will get from the federal gas tax fund.
"Now that it's been indexed, we estimate that will lead to about $300 million for the City of Calgary [in] additional funding over the next 20 years, so that's a big deal and certainly gives us a head start on a number of our road and transit projects," he said.
The mayor says the city has a $20 billion infrastructure deficit, so every bit will help.
Nenshi says the gas tax has been used to pay for four-car LRT platforms, refurbishing LRT stations and to buy new buses. But he is concerned about the government's new regulations for some projects and a push for more private involvement.
Nenshi is glad to see Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's eighth budget continuing to invest in housing.
He is also pleased the federal government has signalled an extension the Building Canada Fund for infrastructure projects for an additional 10 years. The fund was scheduled to expire in the spring of 2014.
Last year, Canada’s big city mayors called for $5.75 billion a year — a $2.5 billion increase over the current funding. They pledged to match that amount, along with the provinces, and said $1 billion of that should be dedicated to fighting gridlock.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities says gridlock costs the economy $10 billion a year in lost productivity.
New Canada Job Grant program
The new Canada Job Grant program is expected to help key industries like the energy sector deal with the shortage of trained workers, but not for at least another year as the government renegotiates existing agreements with the provinces and territories.
According to the Harper government, the program will transform the way Canadians receive training. The grant could provide up to $15,000 per person — $5,000 of that from the federal government — to ensure Canadians are getting the skills employers are seeking.
Dave Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, likes the idea as the number of unfilled positions could be as high as 100,000.
“Training for under-represented groups, training to bring additional people into the workforce, additional focus on apprentices — so all of that's gonna help,” Collyer said.
But Alberta's Finance Minister Doug Horner says more investigation into the Canada Job Grant is needed.
"We want to see what the details of it are, and where they are going with it," he said.
"It may be that it will match up with the programs we already have. We are hopeful that's the case because we don't have any new money for these types of programs to be put in. So we'll assess whether that will impact us and whether we can implement dollars already in progress."
Jason Brisbois, the director of the Western Centre for Economic Research at the University of Alberta, says it appears the federal government will take money for the program from Alberta and other provinces and direct it right to the employer.
"What they are very subtle about is that this money is going to come from a current series of arrangements and agreements with provinces where they give that money directly to the provinces," he said.