Canada unveils wait-and-see budget amid U.S. policy uncertainty

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a statement on the attack in London, Britain, during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 22, 2017.

The 2017 federal budget is a stand-pat budget that primarily fleshes out spending announced previously; though it adds little new spending, the country's debt increases and hard decisions are postponed. The government will spend $241 million over 11 years to collect data and improve its ability to understand the dynamics of the real estate market.

To provide further support to emerging companies, the budget contained commitments to expand federal investments in venture capital, to ease access to public procurement contracts for young, innovative firms and to develop an intellectual-property strategy, which is considered critical by some industry players.

The budget showed previously announced infrastructure spending was being spent more slowly than planned - despite the government relying on it to drive growth.

"The analysis of the gender issue is very strong but unfortunately we see relatively little action on the gender front".

"It's all smoke and mirrors if they are just going to take the disability award and spread it out", said lawyer Don Sorochan, who is representing six veterans are suing the government over the lump-sum system.

"The tri-councils get something every year for cost of inflation".

Angella MacEwen, an economist at the Canadian Labour Congress, welcomed the investment Wednesday but said she would like to see how the government plans to measure outcomes.

Morneau said the government ended this fiscal year with a 21.8 billion deficit rather than the $25.1 billion projected last fall.

That includes substantial missions to Iraq, Ukraine, Latvia and, in the coming months, Africa, plus expanded responsibilities with regards to cyberdefence and space.

The budget does set aside Can$2 million to fund the post of chief government science adviser.

A move to simply break up the disability award sets up a potential battle with those who counted on - and even campaigned for - the Liberals on the assumption the government would return to the old system. Two million dollars is "about right" for the job, says Kathleen Walsh, executive director of the non-profit science-advocacy group Evidence for Democracy in Ottawa. There is Can$80 million to replace the ageing Sidney Centre for Plant Health, which was rescued from closure under the Conservatives in 2012.

The budget announced the renewal and enhancement of funding for the Toronto-based Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, which has been tapped to administer the artificial intelligence (AI) program.

Fertility treatments for gay couples: Budget 2017 clarifies for the medical expense tax credit so that same-sex couples and single people can now claim a credit for expenses related to fertility treatments or the equivalent. "The number of hits on our job site has doubled since November".

The budget did not make any changes to income tax rates amid uncertainty about the future of US tax rates under President Donald Trump.

The details of most of the new strategic plans and national funds are sketchy, and Morneau indicated they won't be released for months.

The federal government is projecting slightly smaller annual budget shortfalls in the years ahead and placing "big bets" on hand-picked sectors of the economy that the Liberals are banking on to eventually help balance the books.

Overall, the budgets for the next five years should be lower than what was predicted in the 2016 budget, but the numbers will appear higher since the government has brought back the $3-billion contingency fund, which the government can access to address emergency situations or unforeseen fiscal problems. "I would not be shocked if it takes longer than what they're expecting".

  • Zachary Reyes