2017 Federal budget highlights, local comments

(Photo: Tim Durkin)

OTTAWA – Wednesday’s federal budget is dedicating $11.2 billion to cities and provinces for affordable housing over the coming decade as part of the second wave of the government’s infrastructure program.

Of that money, which comes from the government’s social infrastructure fund, $5 billion will be to encourage housing providers to pool their resources with private partners, and to allow the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to provide more direct loans to cities.

The details are among many laid out in the budget, which details how the government plans to spend the $81 billion it is making available between now and 2028 to address Canada’s future infrastructure needs.

The Liberals clearly see a need to attract private investors to help pay for infrastructure projects, including affordable housing, given the federal government’s tight fiscal position.

A proposed new infrastructure bank would use public dollars to leverage private investment in three key areas; trade corridors, green infrastructure, and public transit.

The government is setting aside $15 billion in cash for the bank, with spending set to start as early as the next fiscal year on projects based on budget projections.

The Liberals are checking off many of their remaining promises to veterans in the federal budget, but have left one big priority marked incomplete; giving injured ex-soldiers pensions for life.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s new fiscal plan calls for $725 million in additional benefits for injured veterans and their families over five years, which will be doled out in a variety of ways.

Those include financial support to veterans who want to go back to school or need help looking for a civilian job, and expanded benefits for family members or others who care for disabled ex-soldiers.

But the big question for many veterans will be how the government plans to make good on its promise to bring back life-long pensions for those injured in the line of duty.

Hastings Lennox and Addington MP Mike Bossio. (File photo: Nicole Kleinsteuber / Quinte News)

The Liberal MP for Hastings-Lennox and Addington says he’s pleased with the $2 billion for rural investment in the new federal budget.

Mike Bossio told Quinte News it helps to focus on the unique rural challenges.

BSSIO BUDGET

Bossio also pointed to the $7 billion in spending over 10 years for Canadian families, including 40,000 new subsidized daycare spaces across Canada by 2019, extended parental leave and allowing expectant mothers to claim maternity benefits 12 weeks before their due date. He said this will make a big difference in the lives of many families.

 

Ryan Williams  and Mary Doyle of QuinteVation (File Photo: Tim Durkin/ Quinte News)

$400 million over three years through the Business Development Bank of Canada for a “venture capital catalyst initiative” to make more venture capital available to Canadian entrepreneurs.

The Bay of Quinte group encouraging “start-up” businesses is pleased with a section of the new federal budget supporting venture capitalism.

Ryan Williams of Quintevation, Start-Up Bay of Quinte, says First Stone Venture Capital of Prince Edward County was able to establish almost 15 companies in the County, with the help of the federal government, through FedDev.
RYAN VENTURE CAPITQL

Williams says he’d like to see more of these ventures in the Quinte region.

Mayor of Quinte West, Jim Harrison.(File photo/Quinte News).

The public transit tax credit, which allows the cost of transit passes to be deducted, is being eliminated effective July 1.

The mayor of Quinte West is pleased to see a number of social issues in the federal government budget handed down Wednesday.

Mayor Jim Harrison says he was glad to see more support for affordable housing and increased support for child care costs.

Mayor Harrison was disappointed regarding the government’s move on transit.

QW HARRISON
In regard to infrastructure funding, Mayor Harrison told Quinte News his city was never as successful as it would like to be in getting the money it needs, but “it keeps trying.”

Highlights from the 2017 federal budget tabled Wednesday by Finance Minister Bill Morneau;

Employment insurance premiums are going up five cents to $1.68 per every $100 of insurable earnings, up from $1.63 the maximum allowable increase under the Employment Insurance Act.

The deficit is at $23 billion, down from $25.1 billion in the last fiscal update, and is projected to reach $28.5 billion for 2017-18 including a $3 billion contingency fund before declining to $18.8 billion in 2021-22.

The 71-year-old Canada Savings Bond program, first established in 1946, is no longer cost effective and is being phased out.

Higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco products; the excise duty rate on cigarettes goes up to $21.56 per carton of smokes from $21.03, while the rates on alcohol are going up two per cent. Both will be adjusted every April 1 starting next year, based on the consumer price index.

The public transit tax credit, which allows the cost of transit passes to be deducted, is being eliminated effective July 1.

The budget dedicates $11.2 billion to cities and provinces for affordable housing over 10 years as part of the second wave of the government’s infrastructure program, $5 billion of which is to encourage housing providers to pool their resources with private partners to pay for new projects.

An “innovation and skills plan” to foster high-tech growth in six sectors; advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital industries, health/bio-sciences and clean resources

$523.9 million over five years to prevent tax evasion and improve tax compliance, including more auditors, a crackdown on high-risk avoidance cases and better investigative efforts.

$7 billion in spending over 10 years for Canadian families, including 40,000 new subsidized daycare spaces across Canada by 2019, extended parental leave and allowing expectant mothers to claim maternity benefits 12 weeks before their due date.

$2.7 billion over six years for labour market transfer agreements with the provinces and territories to modernize training and job supports, to help those looking for work to upgrade skills, gain experience, start a business or get employment counselling.

A national database of all housing properties in Canada, known as the Housing Statistics Framework, to track details on purchases, sales, demographics and financing, as well as foreign ownership.

A comprehensive spending review of “at least three federal departments,” to be named later, to eliminate waste and inefficiencies, as well as a three-year review of federal assets and an audit of existing innovation and clean-tech programs.

$59.8 million over four years, beginning in 2018-19, to make student loans and grants more readily available for part-time students, and $107.4 million over the same period for assist students with dependent children.

$287.2 million over three years, starting in 2018-19, for a pilot project to facilitate adult-student access to student loans and grants.

$225 million over four years, starting in 2018-19, for a new organization to support skills development and measurement.

$395.5 million over three years for the youth employment strategy.

(The Canadian Press)

Smith ejected, again

(File photo) Prince Edward Hastings MPP Todd Smith

Debate over a proposed provincial hydro plan, which the Liberals say will cut rates by 25%, got heated at Queen’s Park Tuesday, to the point that the MPP for Hastings-Prince Edward was ejected from the legislature.

Todd Smith stepped forward from his seat onto the central floor of the legislature, with arms waving, shouting toward the Liberal government members, and was then led from the chamber.

Smith, who is the Progressive Conservative Energy Critic, was voicing his party’s displeasure over the government “spending taxpayer money again to advertise a hydro program that hasn’t been brought to the legislature yet.”

Todd Contempt 1

He says the advertising regarding the changes to the hydro payment program are being paid for by taxpayers’ money, while the advertising handouts at subway stations in Toronto are paid for by Liberal party funds.

The PCs believe it is a breach of the legislature, and have made a motion to hold the Liberals in contempt of parliament.

Todd Smith 1

Smith says they’re still waiting for a ruling from the speaker on that motion, a ruling he says could take a week.

“Special offers” to attract business : Mayor Christopher

Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher at a meeting of the Quinte Economic Development Commission, March 21, 2017 (Photo: Mary Thomas/Quinte News)

Belleville’s mayor says local officials should use trade shows as a chance to give special incentive offers to companies wanting to locate in the Quinte area.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Quinte Economic Development Commission heard staff reports on various conferences attended during the past couple of months.

This included a meeting last week of “site selectors” for United States companies that may want to establish branch plants here.

Mayor Taso Christopher suggested special offers should be made at those conferences.

#1 TASO QEDC

He called for a staff report to indicate what offers could be made at the events.

#2 TASO QEDC

Mayor Christopher pointed out that Belleville does give some limited relief on development charges for new companies locating in the city.

 

Attracting companies from Donald Trump territory

From left: Chair of Quinte Economic Development Commission Ross Rae and Executive Director Chris King, March 21, 2017 (Photo: Mary Thomas/Quinte News)

Quinte area officials are turning their eyes south of the border, as companies there are considering their options in a Donald Trump presidential world.

Officials of the Quinte Economic Development Commission travelled to Arizona last week to a Site Selection Guild conference, a group that helps companies find where they should locate a branch plant next.

Executive Director Chris King told the Commission meeting Tuesday that the idea is to attract branch plants here, but right now many companies are playing a waiting game as far as what new rules President Trump’s administration will put in place.

#1 KING U.S

He says there’s an uncertainty in the market.

#2 KING U
King says Canada has the advantage of being stable and having access to the European market.

New BDIA executive director

New Executive Director of the Belleville Downtown Improvement Area, Marilyn Lawrie, was introduced at city council, March 20, 2017 (Photo: Mary Thomas/Quinte News)

The Belleville Downtown Improvement area introduced its new executive director to city council Monday night.

Marilyn Lawrie, who has been with the Quinte Ballet School of Canada for the past four years, will work half-time.

Lawrie says she is not concerned that the BDIA budget was cut by $30,000.

LAWRIE BDIA

Lawrie says her work in the arts will be an asset since the arts are based in business.

With a smile, she said that’s the reason they are called “show business.”

Controlling fortifications in the city

Monday night, Belleville city council approved creating a bylaw controlling the fortification of property.

City staff, in conjunction with the Belleville Police Service, had prepared a draft bylaw outlawing fortifications such as steel plates or bullet-proof shutters on windows, steel secondary walls built to withstand explosions, observation towers, armour plated doors, and electric fencing.

Such a bylaw is meant to stop criminal organizations from setting up camp in the city.

Contravention of the bylaw could lead to fines as high as $100,000, or daily fines as high as $10,000

Fix it, lease it or sell it: Carr

Belleville Councillor Paul Carr at city council, March 20, 2017 (Photo: Mary Thomas/Quinte News)

Belleville businesses with vacant spaces will soon not be able to get tax rebates which have been costing  from the city hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Since 1998 the Vacant Tax Rebate program, initiated by the province, has provided tax rebates and reductions to property owners who have vacancies in commercial and industrial buildings or land.

The city received 109 applications, totalling more than $315,000, in 2016.

The province is allowing municipalities to drop that.

Councillor Paul Carr told city council Monday night the city is investing in infrastructure in the downtown. and the business owners with vacant buildings should “”fix it, lease it or sell it.”

#1 REBATE CARR

Carr says some owners take advantage of the tax rebate without improving their buildings. He says that’s where “urban decay starts.”

#2 REBATE C ARR

Without naming names, Councillor Jack Miller said one owner told him that, with the rebate, he was better off than making changes to his building.

A staff report to council shows that the majority of the city’s vacancy applications are for commercial vacant properties.

There were 119 vacancy tax rebate applications in 2014, with the city’s rebate share at $381, 762.

In 2015 there were 126 rebate applications, with the city’s rebate share at $365,473.

The city must go through a program of information with the businesses including the impact on them, and inform the province by certain deadlines, to gain approval for the change.

Belleville’s Phase 3 ready to start

Belleville’s final revitalization phase in the downtown is set to go, with the contractor hired by city council Monday night.

There were some objections.

Len Corcoran Excavation, which undertook the first two phases, was the only bidder on the last phase of the project.

This final tender was for $13.3 million with HST, bringing the the whole project to $34 million.

Councillor Paul Carr, one of three councillors who voted against it, told Quinte News there should have been a draft budget with a “close as possible figure.”

1PHASE 3 CARR

Mayor Taso Christopher said it’s within council’s established budget. He said he has learned that municipalities in the Greater Toronto area are paying “triple-digit millions for such work.”

He said Belleville’s success “sends a message across eastern Ontario to concentrate on the city centres.”

He also commended the downtown for being “patient.”

The final vote was 6-to-3, with Councillors Carr, Mitch Panciuk and Kelly McCaw voting against.

Phase 3 runs on Front Street from Bridge Street to Dundas Street and involves work on the streets around Market Square.

The project involves replacement of water and sanitary sewer systems as well as the road and sidewalk work.

Belleville employees on Sunshine List

Belleville City Hall. (File photo: Nicole Kleinsteuber / Quinte News)

The number of Belleville city employees on the Sunshine List for 2016 was down from the previous year.

There were 116 people on the list of those who made more than $100,000 in 2016, ten fewer than in 2015.

Ninety-five of them are firefighters, police officers, and staff with the Belleville Fire Department and the Belleville Police Service.

Former Police Chief Cory MacKay topped the list at $195,417, with Chief Administrative Officer Rick Kester second at $179,740.

You can see the full list on the March 20, 2017 agenda of Belleville city council, page 93, at the following site:

http://belleville.ca/files/consent200317.pdf

Marking Belleville’s 200th birthday

Belleville City Hall. (File photo: Nicole Kleinsteuber / Quinte News)

This is the year Belleville marks its 200th birthday and a number of people are planning the celebrations to mark the milestone.

Two hundred years ago Belleville’s population sat at 150 people.

They were the ones to adopt the name and set things in motion for this anniversary.

The Hastings County Historical Society is planning five commemorative plaques for the downtown.

President Richard Hughes says one will be for the former Firehall #2 building.

#1 200TH BELLE

Another plaque will mark the old Pinnacle Street railway which lasted until the ’60s.

#2 200TH BELLE

Hughes says a committee is also planning a special historic edition of the Belleville magazine to be delivered to city households in the summer.

You can catch host Mary Thomas with the full interview on Newsmaker Sunday, this Sunday at the noon hour on 800 CJBQ.

Transportation plan for Northumberland

Northumberland County has approved a Master Plan for a multi-faceted transportation network throughout the county.

The Master Plan, the result of two years of study, contains analysis of traffic patterns, and infrastructure requirements, outlining policies and services that will support the County in best meeting the mobility needs of the rural/urban mix of communities—projected to grow to 96,000 residents by 2031.

It identifies an anticipated investment of between $2.4 and $4.2 million beyond the base transportation budget over the first ten years.

It calls for improvement of roads, continued investment in alternative uses of the network, including transit services and cycling.

Five years ago, Northumberland county council identified the need for this plan to manage the social, economic and environmental impact of a county-wide transportation system over 50 years.

Warden Mark Walas says it is a realistic, attainable , economically feasible plan for today and well into the future.

Long Term Care budget jumps 12%

Centennial Manor in Bancroft (Photo submitted: Hastings County)

The cost of running the two Long Term Care facilities in Hastings County could jump just over 12% this year.

The budget recently approved by the Long Term Care committee would mean Belleville, Quinte West, and Hastings County will pay a 12.3% increase in the combined budget for Hastings Manor in Belleville and Centennial Manor in Bancroft.

This represents a 15% hike for Hastings Manor and 9.3% for Centennial Manor.

Hastings County Director of Finance Sue Horwood told Quinte News both of the homes are now 15 years old and require some upgrades in equipment and furniture.

The capital projects planned for 2017 include: lift and carpet replacements, carpet handrail and wall protection.

Horwood says the homes are highly regulated, but the provincial funding falls short in meeting those requirements.

The total budget for the two homes is $4.1 million. Horwood says this is a small amount in the total budget for Social Services, Emergency Services and Long Term Care.

It goes to Hastings County council for final approval later this month.

If approved,  Belleville will pay $1.9 million, Quinte West $1 million and Hastings County $1.1 million.

Working to clear the snow

It seems Belleville is making its way through this winter well under budget for snow removal, despite this recent snow storm.

Belleville has a $2 million budget for snow removal in 2017.

Manager of transportation Pat McNulty says it’s been “a light winter, touch wood” but this week’s storm was difficult.

He says the crews worked two shifts around the clock from 4 a.m. Tuesday.

#1 SNOW REMOVAL

McNulty says the usage of sand and salt this winter has been about the same as if there had been lots of snow.

#2 SNOW REMOVAL

The city spent $1.27 million on snow removal in 2016, of a $2 million budget.