Canadian Consulting Engineer

Federal budget includes plans for new national water strategy

Despite some disappointments, the federal budget delivered by the Honourable James M. Flaherty, Minister of Financ...

March 20, 2007   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Despite some disappointments, the federal budget delivered by the Honourable James M. Flaherty, Minister of Finance, in Ottawa on March 19 includes several items that present business opportunities for consulting engineers.
With its new focus on the environment, the government has proposed dedicating $2 billion over seven years to encourage the production of renewable fuels. It says it will also rebalance the tax system to encourage the oil sands and other sectors to invest in clean and renewable energy.
The government says it will support major clean air and climate change projects with the provinces and territories through a $1.5-billion Canada Eco-Trust for Clean Air and Climate Change.
In the area of water, the government plans a new National Water Strategy and heavy investment in cleaning up contaminated areas of the Great Lakes, Lake Simcoe, Lake Winnipeg and preserving Canada’s coasts.
There will be new standards to ensure First Nations residents have access to safe drinking water. Also, the government promises to work with the provinces on tougher regulations for municipal wastewater effluents.
A change that might affect engineers involved in the buildings or recreational sectors is a proposal to create a Canada National Trust based on the National Trust in the United Kingdom. The organization would operate independently of government and would help to protect important lands, buildings and national treasures.
For the education sector, the Finance Minister announced an $800 million increase in annual support for post-secondary education.
For hard infrastructure, the government announced plans to spend more than $16 billion over seven years, including extending the gas tax fund for municipalities. The money will go on roads, public transit, sewer and water systems and green energy. This $16 billion brings the federal support under a new long-term plan to a total of $33 billion for infrastructure.
A new Building Canada Fund is proposed, under which the federal government will continue to boost, among other initiatives, spending on border crossings and gateways. Favoured projects include the Asia-Pacific Gateway in western Canada and a renewed commitment to support a new Windsor-Detroit crossing in Ontario.
Hoping to capitalize on private investment, the government plans to establish a new federal office to identify public private partnership opportunities.
Another new office it wants to set up is the Major Projects Management Office to streamline the review of large natural resource projects. With an investment of $60 million over two years, the government seeks to halve the average regulatory review period for projects from four years to two years.
Consulting engineers who work in the industrial and manufacturing sector should know that the government is going to allow companies in this sector to write off their capital investments in machinery and equipment acquired on or after March 19, 2007 and before 2009. The government will also increase the capital cost allowance rate from 4 to 10 per cent for buildings used in manufacturing and processing. It will increase the capital cost allowance rate from 45 to 55% for the purchase of computers.
Small firms will be interested to hear that the government plans to lighten the paperwork load it imposes on small businesses by 20% by November 2008. It also wants to reduce the frequency with which small businesses have to file their taxes.
The government says it will also appoint an expert independent panel to review Canada’s competition policy.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities was not too happy with the budget. In a statement, FCM Acting president Gord Steeves said that while the cities welcomed certain aspects of the budget, such as the extension of the federal gas-tax transfer for four years, they lamented the lack of more stable, long-term funding for infrastructure and transit programs.
The budget is at www.budget.gc.ca/2007


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