The Bridge Budget

The Federal Government’s 2014 budget is an important scene setter for the next federal election and what could follow in 2015. The budget acts as a bridge from where the country is now – still recovering from the downturn and its related uncertainty – to where it hopes to be in 2015, on more stable fiscal ground.

The budget contained:

  • direct news for charities across the country
  • measures related to areas where CFC and our network are particularly active such as social finance, youth, food security, and aboriginal issues

Focus on charities

The Federal Government signalled its continuing focus on recommendations made in the 2013 report from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. The key areas of focus were:

  • Access to Mitacs program: The Mitacs program helps to inspire innovation in Canada through research granting opportunities. Charities and non-profits that have typically been unable to access the Mitacs program will now be eligible for grants that will help drive innovation and research while positioning these organizations as key contributors to Canada’s economy.The budget proposes to provide $8 million over two years to expand Mitacs’ Elevate program. This is an opportunity for community foundations to act as catalysts and mobilizers of community knowledge – a space we’re already exploring in the lead up to the CKX Summit in November 2014.
  • Gifts of ecologically sensitive land: Encourage Canadians to donate ecologically sensitive land by doubling the carry-forward period for claiming these donations from five years to 10 years.
  • Estate flexibility: The trustee of an individual’s estate will be allowed increased flexibility to apply charitable donation credits against the income tax liabilities of the individual or the estate.
  • Exploring the potential of social finance: While no specifics were announced, community foundations that are active in this space will note that the government has signalled a continued interest in working “with leaders in the not-for-profit and private sectors to explore the potential for social finance initiatives and examine whether there are barriers to their success.”We’ll be watching this space in 2015 for more movement.
  • Online filing, application and information: charities can apply for registration and file their annual information returns electronically for the first time and a new CRA web site will share more information on charitable giving trends and characteristics in Canada.
  • Charitable lotteries: Amend the Criminal Code to allow charities to conduct lotteries using electronic technology.

Focus on aboriginal communities

We know from #GenerationFlux that Aboriginal youth face a considerable educational attainment gap. There is targeted support for Aboriginal on-reserve education beginning in 2016: an additional $1.25 B per year to bring it in line with provincial funding levels.

There were a number of other initiatives related to aboriginal communities, including a review of the aboriginal justice strategy, dollars focused on reducing violence against Aboriginal women and girls and commitments to infrastructure needs (water, for instance) and education.

Rural and northern communities where many community foundations are based, will see that the government is expanding broadband service to 280,000 more Canadians in rural and Northern communities over the next five years.

Focus on youth

A few highlights from a series of announcements related to youth unemployment and career building. Our Generation Flux report highlighted the challenges faced by a highly educated, but underemployed workforce. Two initiatives announced in the budget are:

  • Employment: The government proposes to review the Youth Employment Strategy (YES) to better align it with the job market and provide more job experience opportunities in high-demand fields. We’ll be watching for details in the weeks ahead.
  • Paid internships: 3,000 internships will be created (skilled trades, applied research, etc.). Similarly some of the money from the YES program will be re-allocated to fund 1,000 youth internships in small and medium enterprises.

Focus on food

We know from our Vital Signs report Fertile Ground that the face of farming is changing – in particular, the number of farms in Canada continues to fall. Investments through theGrowing Forward 2 framework will provide much needed assistance to agricultural programs that help farmers manage income decline.

Northern communities and Aboriginal people are also affected by Canada’s changing food landscape – as the budget makes clear the cost of healthy food in isolated Northern communities is significantly higher than other parts of Canada. Enhanced funding for Nutrition North Canada will support nutrition education and improve access to healthy food in these communities.

There are also new dollars for food safety related to new food inspectors, a Food Safety Information Network to link federal and provincial authorities with labs across Canada and better training and tools.

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