Chamber see positive items in federal budget

The Battlefords Chamber of Commerce watched closely as the federal budget was handed down by the Liberal government on Monday.

Chamber chief operating officer Linda Machniak told the monthly Chamber board meeting Tuesday that she had participated in a post-budget event with the Canadian Chamber and Chamber managers across the country Monday.

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Machniak reported there were “many key items” in the budget that the Chamber had been calling for or were positive for business.

Highlights include the extension of business supports on the wage subsidy and the rent subsidy, as well as a new Canada Recovery Hiring Program which will take effect in the summer of this year. That will assist businesses as they re-hire staff who had been on the payroll in the past, or as they hire new people.

There were several workforce support programs announced that Machniak said would be positive for business. One was the government’s investment in early childhood and childcare.

Other highlights for the Chamber was a budget commitment to workforce solutions addressing upskilling, reskilling, and student funding.

Also seen as positive was the Canadian government’s investment in interprovincial trade. Machniak noted there was also a commitment to reduce regulations, and to provide support for transportation including VIA’s high-speed rail project. There was also money for tourism and tourism-related businesses.

Also seen as good news, and one Machniak said could be relevant to the Battlefords area, is $4.3 billion over four years for Indigenous community infrastructure funds. This would be for shovel-ready projects for First Nations.

The national Chamber wasn’t satisfied with all aspects of the child care program. Machniak said they’re want to see a change to introduce a tax exemption, so that women could go back to work now instead of having to wait.

From a Saskatchewan Chamber perspective, Machniak reported that they welcomed the support of $60 million to VIDO-InterVac in Saskatoon who are developing a COVID-19 vaccine. The provincial Chamber also pointed to the carbon capture tax credit, pandemic wage relief, and establishment of an economic development agency for BC. That was seen as a positive, Machniak noted, as it confirmed the budget for Western Economic Diversification.

Machniak also indicated she would be participating this week in a call with finance minister Chrystia Freeland which would include questions and answers.

“Overall, I would say the chamber executive people were pretty positive from a business perspective about what was in the budget,” said Machniak.

While the deficit was high this year, estimated at $1 trillion, the reduction in the deficit numbers was seen as “quicker than anticipated”, down to $15 billion by 2025-26.

“The question will be whether or not their growth targets and their ability to raise money will help support that,” Machniak said.

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