Ottawa focuses on jobs, economic growth

Stimulus funding still a priority, but feds promise to cut record budget deficit
By Louise Egan and Pav Jordan
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 03/10/2010

The federal government said on Wednesday it planned to focus on stimulus spending, jobs and economic growth this year, while promising to also cut a record budget deficit.

In a speech outlining the priorities for 2010, Ottawa said it would make it easier for Canadians and foreigners to do business. This includes allowing more foreign investment in key sectors like telecommunications and uranium mining.

In a news release from the Prime Minister’s office, the government also said it was going to continue to work on job creation, job protection and building the jobs and industries of the future.

“Recognizing that too many Canadians are still looking for work, the government is helping young Canadians entering today’s job market for the first time make the transition to work,” the release said. The government also announced plans to invest in skills and education.

Precise details of what the government is planning will be unveiled on Thursday in the federal budget. The government last year unveiled a two-year $46 billion stimulus package to offset the worst of the recession. (Editor’s note: Canadian HR Reporter has teamed up with Towers Watson to bring you coverage of Thursday’s federal budget from an employer perspective. Look for coverage on www.hrreporter.com.)

Ottawa said the top priority would be to implement the second-year of the plan.

"Even as confidence returns to our economy, it would be a mistake to declare that the recession is completely behind us," it said in its Speech from the Throne.

"Too many Canadians still find themselves out of work and events beyond our borders could yet threaten a fragile recovery."

The minority Conservative government needs the backing of at least one opposition party to pass the budget.

Polls show the Conservatives are neck-and neck with the main opposition Liberals, which means neither party can be sure of victory if it were to trigger an election. This suggests the budget will be approved.

The budget deficit for the 2009/10 fiscal year is projected to be a record $55.9 billion. Ministers have repeatedly promised Canada will be back in the black within five years.

In the speech, the government committed to freezing the operating budgets of federal ministries as well as the salaries of ministers and their offices.

It also vowed to keep taxes low and said it would open the doors further to foreign investments in key sectors such as the satellite and communications industries.

Canada will streamline regulations affecting its powerful resource sector, a key source of national prosperity, by cutting red tape affecting strategic sectors from uranium mining to natural gas.

"To support responsible development of Canada's energy and mineral resources, our Government will untangle the daunting maze of regulations that needlessly complicates project approvals," the speech said.

It said it would work to prevent unnecessary regulation from unduly inhibiting the growth of the uranium mining industry in Canada, the world's largest producer.

More foreign access to Canadian uranium has been a goal of the government since it was reelected in 2008.

Canada is one of the world's largest producers of crude oil, natural gas, hydroelectric power, as well as base and precious metals.

Citing a joint-review report on the long-delayed Mackenzie Gas Project, Canada pledged to reform the regulatory regime so that commercially viable resources in its northern region are developed, while improving environmental protection.

— Reuters, with files from Canadian HR Reporter staff

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