Budget 2016 was tabled Tuesday in the House of Commons. As part of pre-budget consultations, CCEDNet and many of our members and partners prepared recommendations that have been posted on our website.
While the budget seems to have positive measures and investments to reduce poverty and inequality, improve access to affordable housing, reduce homelessness and invest in First Nations, it misses the chance to strengthen the role community-based leadership can play to support those investments. The Budget made no mention of community economic development, social enterprises, co-operatives, social finance, impact investing, social procurement, Community Futures Development Corporations / Community Business Development Corporations or community benefit agreements.
Positive Budget Measures
The budget does include potentially positive measures for renewable energy and rural vitality (page numbers refer to the English PDF version of the budget plan)
- There is $128.8m over 5 years for Natural Resources Canada for energy efficiency policies and programs, and $10.7m over two years to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to implement renewable energy projects in off-grid Indigenous and northern communities, and new funding for the First Nations Infrastructure Fund, which will support a range of community infrastructure investments, including energy systems (p.158). This could be an important opportunity for CCEDNet members working in community renewable energy and on First Nations, like Aki Energy.
- The only mention of rural communities was to improve access to broadband (p.104).
Ongoing Policy Opportunities
Despite the absence in the budget of new investments, a number of important policy opportunities are in motion federally:
- The development of a national strategy on social innovation and social finance, announced in the mandate letters to Ministers Duclos and Mihychuk.
- The modernization of procurment practices to include social procurement, as directed in the mandate letter to Minister Foote
- The development of a national poverty reduction strategy, announced in the mandate letters to Ministers Duclos and Mihychuk.
- A private member’s bill on community benefit agreements introduced in February.
In closing it is worth noting the the projected growth of public transit, green infrastructure and social infrastructure investments by the federal government over the next 10 years presented on p.87 of the budget document. Although this year’s budget may not contain any provisions for social finance infrastructure, community benefits or social procurement as we have been presenting them, the scale and timeframe of future investments reinforces the importance and opportunity for us to influence those investments.