Wage subsidy clawbacks on firms increasing executive compensation

The federal government is planning to claw back wage subsidies for any firm that increased executive compensation while availing themselves of the support measures. Under the terms of the proposal, any publicly-listed company that increased executive pay from 2019 levels and partook in the wage subsidy program will have to repay the equivalent of that compensation boost to the federal government.

No national pharmacare

Ottawa is putting the idea of a national pharmacare program on the backburner, announcing it will only engage with other partners on the issue rather than implement a sweeping plan of its own. The feds plan to continue to provide ongoing funding of $500 million to high-cost drugs used to treat rare diseases.

Toronto-Quebec rail infrastructure

The federal government is earmarking $491.2 million over the next six years to support a potential high-frequency rail conduit between Toronto and Quebec City. That cash could reduce bottlenecks along the key transit corridor and reduce the need for short-hop flights along Canada’s most populous region. France recently provided something of a template for a shift to rail travel rather than carbon-intensive flights, announcing plans to ban domestic flights between cities within two-and-a-half hours of one-another by rail.

$960M for jobs training

Ottawa has set aside $960 million over the next three years for Employment and Social Development Canada to help retrain Canadian workers. The program is focused on developing job skills pertinent to small and medium-sized employers as they emerge from the worst of the pandemic.

$595M for hiring programs

In a bid to support hiring programs, the feds are earmarking $595 million for a new Canada Recovery Hiring program, which will offset some of the costs of increasing wages and hours worked as businesses reopen. The program will be available from June 6 to November 20, in what the government said was aimed at making it as easy as possible to rationalize boosting a company’s headcount.

Targeting predatory lending

The feds are launching consultations on predatory lending, taking aim at lowering the criminal rate of interest on lending practices like payday loans. Barring provincial standards for such loans, the maximum compound rate of interest is currently capped at 60 per cent per annum by federal usury laws.

Cutting credit card transaction fees

In another move targeted at easing the burdens of small businesses, the federal government is launching consultations on how to drive down the price of credit card transaction fees. The feds said they will explore potential avenues to do so, and will release more details in the upcoming Fall Economic Statement.

$1.9B for national trade corridors

The federal government has set aside just shy of $2 billion to beef up Canada’s national trade corridors as it looks to break down internal trade barriers. On top of that, it’s seeking something of a multiplier effect from the private sector to help build out those shipping routes, forecasting there could be an additional $2.7 billion invested by private entities.

Beefing up bilingualism

Ottawa earmarked $180.4 million over the next three years to promote bilingualism in hopes of increasing English-French bilingualism nationwide. That cash will go towards supporting French immersion programs and increasing the number of Canadians entered into such programs at an early age. English-French bilingualism in Canada has been on the rise, hitting 9.8 per cent in 2016, according to the most recent census data available.

Cutting government travel spending

The pandemic has laid bare the potential cost-savings for businesses shifting from travel to Skype, and the government has proven no different. Ottawa is forecasting a $1.1 billion savings over the next five years by cutting the operating budgets of departments and agencies with the highest historical travel costs, and $222.5 million of annual savings in the years beyond the forecast horizon.

Supports for salmon

The supports in Budget 2021 aren’t just for people, but for fish as well. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will get $647.1 million over the next five years to help stabilize the wild Pacific salmon population, which has been decimated over the last three decades.

Conserving the HMS Erebus & HMS Terror

The ill-fated Franklin Expedition isn’t left out in the budget, with $15 million allocated to archeological and conservation work on the two vessels that doomed the expedition in 1845. The wrecks of the two ships were discovered in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

Tackling tax avoidance

The Canada Revenue Agency is getting another $304. Million over the next five years to increase audits on GST and HST compliance, to modernize its risk-assessment policies over fraudulent rebate claims and to dig into tax evasion involving trusts.

Wine support, with no sour grapes

The budget provides $101 million over the next two years to help support Canada’s wine industry, largely concentrated in Southern Ontario and the Okanagan region of British Columbia. The funds will help support wineries to adapt to ongoing challenges, like the impact of climate change on crops and growing seasons.

Funds for COVID testing for air travel

The federal government has set aside $82.5 million for further testing for COVID-19 at Canada’s airports as it looks to support a recovery in air travel demand. Air traffic both domestically and internationally has been hammered by the pandemic, with concerns over inter-jurisdictional travel slashing consumer demand.