Skip to Content
Sign up for Grass Roots Public Affairs Quarterly Newsletter Twitter Facebook

The Impact to Canada’s Agricultural and Agri-Food Community

Wed 28th Feb 2018

Laurie Karson
Senior Consultant - Ottawa

Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled the 2018-2019 federal budget yesterday on Parliament Hill. The Liberal government continued with its core themes of gender equality, concern for Indigenous issues, middle class tax benefits and scientific innovation. Given this was Morneau’s third budget, there were few indications that the government would change course or deviate from previous budgets. The budget reinforced much of the Liberal Party' 2015 platform with a commitment to delivering stronger social programs.

The reaction from Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was swift and candid. The Tories saw this budget as a continuation of what they believe to be wasteful spending with another $18B in additional debt being added this year alone. Critics are concerned that a balanced budget is unattainable under the current Liberal mandate. In light of the current uncertainty surrounding major trade agreements such as NAFTA, many are disappointed that the budget failed to provide tax cuts or incentives to business owners.

What did the budget include for the Canadian agri-food sector? Short answer is – not much. While agriculture and agri-food were mentioned in the budget, the government failed to prioritize the industry as they had done in 2017 and, as a result, disappointed many industry stakeholders. Given the federal government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, the Barton report identified the agri-food sector as a major economic driver in the years ahead. Many had hoped for more investments in the sector to spark economic growth, however, they were met with largely silence.

While there was not a focus on the agri-food sector, there was several items buried in the details of the 369 page budget.

Some specific notations for Agriculture and Agri-Food include:

Transportation/Innovation: $11.5 million over next three years of regulatory reviews that identify “bottlenecks to innovation and growth in Canada with an initial focus on agri-food, aquaculture, etc.”

Infrastructure Improvements to Rural Communities: $100 million over next five years to develop “next generation” rural broadband access within the Strategic Innovation Fund, with a particular focus on supporting projects that related to LEO satellites. This investment could lead to rural communities where many farming industries exist to have better access to internet and wireless services at more efficient and affordable pricing.
New Scientific Facilities/Programs including Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: $2.8 billion over 5 years for the development of federal collaborative laboratories that are focused on interdisciplinary research on a national scale that focuses on Agriculture, Agri-Food Canada, Fisheries/Oceans, Climate Change to advance Human Health, Ocean Protection and Canada’s commitment to climate change. We are yet to assess what specific mandates the Agriculture and Agri-Food industries play within this large objective.

Women Entrepreneurs in Agriculture: New lending projects/initiatives designed specifically for female entrepreneurs through Farm Credit Canada. The budget noted that Farm Credit Canada will continue to offer advisory services, learning events and knowledge initiatives specifically aimed at women entrepreneurs in the agriculture and agri-food sectors.

Growing Canadian Businesses: Highlighted was the government’s “six Economic Strategy Table” whereby the government see “potential for growth and creation of high-quality jobs” – one of the industries noted as part of this objectives was Agri-Food. These objectives include “smart regulations, digitization/data, and intellectual property and export services”.  

Innovation, infrastructure and clean economic growth: Support for innovation in key growth industries such as clean technology, digital and agri-food, support for innovation networks and clusters.

What’s next?

The government has one budget left in its mandate to show Canadians that they are competent, stable and forward-thinking. As of late, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s personal approval ratings have begun to drop, however, the Liberal brand remains strong in the minds of Canadian voters. With the next federal election scheduled for the fall of 2019, there are less than 20 months until E-day. One year from now the Liberals will table their pre-election budget, and unlike this year, it will very likely include significant spending initiatives to shore up voter support. If there are to be more significant and substantive investments towards the agri-food sector in next year’s budget the industry needs to ensure it has a clear, consistent and collaborative approach to their lobbying and communications to all political parties.

The agri-food sector needs to start communicating the many benefits a larger and stronger agri-food sector can provide to all Canadians, including those living and working in large urban centres. In our travels across Canada, we hear regularly from provincial farm associations, commodity groups and industry stakeholders that the agri-food sector has the opportunity to drive our national economy forward. The team at Grassroots is looking forward to doing our part to making sure the 2019 budget is more like what we saw in 2017 and not 2018.