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Eight Liberal budget promises that recycle old spending

The government announced all kinds of spending in Budget 2017, but much of it draws on pre-existing funding promises
PARL Christmas Break 20160514
The Peace Tower is cast in afternoon light on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec 14, 2016. The House of Commons unanimously voted Wednesday afternoon to rise for the Christmas break. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Call it the blue bin budget. It’s not that the Liberals had no new investments to announce in their 2017 fiscal plan; they simply didn’t have much leftover cash after the many, many promises for Indigenous people, education and the “Innovation Agenda” announced in last year’s budget.

So how can the Liberals demonstrate their ongoing commitment to these issues without plunging the budget into an even bigger deficit? Simple: embrace recycling.

While the 2017 budget included its fair share of new initiatives, the funding was often reallocated from existing resources from last year’s budget.

Here are eight Liberal initiatives for which a bulk of the funding was simply shifted around from somewhere else:

A supercluster billion

The Liberals carved out $950 million over the next five years to invest in innovation “superclusters”—which would boost economic growth in fields such as clean technology, advanced manufacturing, digital technology, and bio-sciences.

So where will nearly a billion dollars for this initiative come from? The Liberals said they’ll draw $800 million from a budget promise last year for innovation networks and clusters, while the other $150 million will come from money promised for public transit and green infrastructure in their 2016 Fall Economic Update.

Everybody in the Strategic Innovation Fund pool!

The Liberals are proposing a five-year, $1.26 billion Strategic Innovation Fund, though most of the money has already been spoken for. The strategy, in this case, is pooling about $1 billion already allotted for the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative, Technology Demonstration Program, Automotive Innovation Fund and Automotive Supplier Innovation Program—and consolidating them all under one umbrella fund.

The Strategic Innovation Fund will expand to other sectors than those mentioned above, such as clean energy and agri-food, and the Liberals announced the fund will get an extra $200 million over three years to help to that end. Of course, $100 million of that is new money, while the other $100 million will be syphoned off the $1-billion promise to support clean technology in the 2016 Budget.

In short: a $1.26 billion investment only has $100 million of new money.

Bills for the skills

The Liberals announced $50 million in 2017-18 that will go towards the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS). And while that will include some new funding (the budget didn’t point out exactly how much), the $50-million total will include some of the $15 million announced for the same program in last year’s budget, plus other funds relocated from general programs that provide skills training.

Research excellence with old investments

To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, and to recognize the important work being done by the Canada 150 Research Chairs, the budget promised an investment of $117.6 million over eight years to attract international scholars and researchers to the Great White North and cement the country’s commitment to innovation and science. All that money, however, will come from funds already set out within the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program.

New project, not new money

The Liberals are keen to help low-income families get a head-start on savings via the Canada Learning Bond by launching a pilot project with $12.5 million in funding over six years. All the money, however, is simply being reallocated from resources set out for Employment and Social Development Canada.

A reallocated Pathway to Education

Since 2001, Pathways to Education Canada has offered academic and financial support to low-income neighbourhoods. The Liberals’ latest budget promised $38 million in funding over four years, though $14 million of that money will be taken from resources within Employment and Social Development Canada. Also, this financial investment won’t start until 2018-19.

Labour Code cash

The Liberals promised to update the Canada Labour Code by strengthening its compliance and enforcement measures to make sure employees can recover unpaid wages from their employers. Updating these proposed amendments will take money—$13 million over five years, the Liberals pledged—though $3 million of that will draw from resources within Employment and Social Development Canada.

A smoking gun

Justin Trudeau has long said he hopes to legalize marijuana, but in the meantime, his government wants to keep pot away from kids—and its profits away from organized crime—by directing $9.6 million over the next five years towards public education programming and surveillance for legalized marijuana. But the money will come entirely from existing resources.