The Hill Update: Budget 2018 Date Announced, Supercluster winners, new Indigenous rights framework



February 15, 2018

A busy week in Ottawa revealed to us the date of the 2018 budget, the winners and losers of the nine-month contest to create technological superclusters, a central part of the Government’s innovation agenda, and the announcement of a new Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework between the federal government and Indigenous peoples in Canada. The Capital Hill Group is here to provide the run-down you need to keep up to speed.


Federal Budget Announced for Feb 27th, Expected Focus on supporting Women and Science
Supercluster Winners and Losers
New Indigenous framework for Federal Government

Federal Budget Announced for Feb 27th, Expected Focus on supporting Women and Science

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will introduce the federal government’s latest budget on Feb. 27, and will need to balance generally strong economic forecasts with uncertainly about the impact of potential tax and trade changes generated south of the border.

Canada’s economy will continue to grow in 2018 according to projections , albeit at a slower rate than in 2017. Despite this good news, ongoing debate and discussion about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S. move to slash corporate taxes loom over Canada’s finances, and could have unpredictable impacts.

Early reports indicate that the Budget will include money to pay the costs of agenda-setting pay-equity legislation for employees in the federal government and federally regulated sectors, and will go beyond that into measures to encourage the participation of women in the workforce, in leadership roles and in science

Trudeau hit on many of these themes in his recent speech to a global business audience in Davos, Switzerland, where he signaled the government would not be following the US lead in slashing corporate taxes, and in fact credited Canada’s economic growth since coming to office on the decision to tax higher income Canadians to invest in programs such as the child-care benefit. Trudeau also highlighted the economic cost of the gender gap in the work force, pointing to a McKinsey report that estimates that by narrowing the gender gap, Canada could add $150-billion to its economy.

With this in mind, look for the budget to expand on efforts by the government in the field of gender equality and lay out government efforts to boost the labour-force participation of women, investments in science and technology, as suggested by an independent panel commissioned by the Government led by former University of Toronto president David Naylor.

Supercluster Winners and Losers

Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains today announced the winners of the supercluster contest that is a centerpiece of the Liberal innovation agenda. The project was designed to encourage academia and businesses to work together on strategies to boost fast-growing sectors. Five industry consortia will share $950-million under the program, with the money being distributed over five years to the winners, which will have to match the federal funding they receive, dollar for dollar.

The winners and organizations involved are:

  • An “AI-powered supply chain” supercluster led by Quebec City’s Optel Group and backed by such Quebec Inc. mainstays as BCE Inc, Alimentation Couche-Tard, Montreal’s Institute for Data Valorization and dozens of other companies and research organizations including the University of Waterloo.
  • An “advanced manufacturing” supercluster, a bid drawing together key players from the Toronto-Hamilton-Waterloo corridor and led by innovation hub organizations Communitech of Waterloo and MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, that aims to help improve manufacturing efficiencies through the use of new technologies. Other backers include auto parts maker Linamar Corp., Maple Leaf Foods Inc., Waterloo smart city technologies starup Miovision Technologies Inc., smart clothing maker Myant inc. and University of Toronto;
  • A bid drawing together key B.C. players to form a “Digital Technology Supercluster” that promises to advance projects in three areas: health, natural resources and industrial applications, helping to build to build personalize, gene-based cancer treatments, to improve geological data use to improve resource sector projects and to create a “teaching hospital for advanced manufacturing” through use of virtual reality. The bid partners include Telus, Microsoft, Teck, Shoppers Drug Mart, Canfor, GE Digital and 25 universities, research institutes and post-secondary instiututions from BC. Together the consortium has promised to invest more than $500 million alongside the money it will receive from government;
  • An “ocean supercluster” co-led by energy company Emera Inc and Clearwater Seafoods Inc, and also involving Irving Shipbuilding, Cisco and the main universities in Atlantic Canada that promised to use digital technologies to help develop Canada’s off-shore industries.
  • A “protein innovations” supercluster from Saskatchewan led by agriculture giants including Ag-West Bio Inc, Alliance Grain traders Inc and US giant DowDuPont Inc. The supercluster’s goal is to make the Canadian prairies the leading global source of quality plant proteins and related food ingredients.

The unsuccessful bids included:

  • Clean growth through mining supercluster. The bid promised to make Canada a global leader in clean resources, clean tech and responsible sourcing of metals by using technology to address issues such as energy and water use. It was based in Ontario, Quebec and B.C.
  • Mobility systems and technologies supercluster. The proposal seeked to leverage technologies to improve Canada’s leadership in mobility products and services. It will also focus on serving market needs in aerospace, ground transportation and manufacturing. It was based on Quebec, Ontario, B.C. and Atlantic Canada.
  • Smart agri-food supercluster. The Alberta-based applicant had an objective to make Canada the preferred global supplier of sustainable, high-quality, safe food. To get there, it would build information technologies, such as data analysis and quality control platforms.
  • Smart, sustainable and resilient infrastructure supercluster. This Alberta finalist pledged to revolutionize the design, construction and operations of infrastructure to make Canada a leader in the use of advanced digital communications and interconnected applications and services.

New Indigenous framework for Federal Government

The Prime Minister yesterday announced that the Government of Canada will develop in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples – a Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework  to develop a new legal basis to foster self-governance.

The contents of the Framework will be determined through national engagement activities led by the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs. Engagement will continue throughout the spring, with the intention to have the Framework introduced in 2018 and implemented before October 2019.

The plan announced by Trudeau Wednesday follows on some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), a report that dates back to the 1990s — in particular, its call for the federal government to help foster autonomy by moving communities away from the restrictions of the colonial-era Indian Act.

The basic unit of government in most Indigenous communities today is the band, a creation of the Indian Act. A band usually includes only a portion of a nation; Indigenous people who lost status or did not qualify for status under the Indian Act are often excluded from their own communities.

Trudeau said the federal government is prepared to support Indigenous efforts to rebuild nations, leaving them better equipped to take on the responsibilities of self governance.

Many of the details have yet to be decided, but Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett said at a press conference following the announcement that one of the real-world implications of the framework will be an easier path to self-determination for individual or groups of Indigenous persons, including by establishing control over a specific area such as education or child welfare.