Federal government’s economic update includes mining natural resources to fuel green economy

Canada is officially moving from “rebalancing” to “rebuilding” post-COVID-19, according to Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and mining natural resources will play a significant role in making it happen.

During the reveal of Canada’s Fall Economic Statement (FES), Freeland told the House of Commons the next few years will be a “historic” opportunity for Canada to build an economy that “works for everyone.”

“The green transition calls for an industrial transformation comparable in scale only to the industrial revolution itself – and Canada is blessed with the talented people, and the raw materials, and the industries needed to drive that transformation,” Freeland explained.

The good news? Unemployment and inflation are currently lower in Canada than in many other “peer countries,” according to Freeland.

“So far this year, our economic growth has been the strongest in the G7 – stronger than the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France, or Japan,” she explained.

“With our fundamental economic strengths preserved, and the pandemic recession behind us, there is no country in the world better placed than Canada to thrive in a post-COVID global economy.”

However, during Thursday’s update, Freeland stressed the need to accelerate Canada’s green transition and break ground on development and resource extraction projects with “meaningful Indigenous participation.”

As part of the Fall update, the Canadian government is investing in a “sustainable jobs training centre,” in order to help 15,000 workers upgrade or gain new skills for jobs in a “low carbon economy.”

“Ensuring that resource and other major projects, from clean energy to critical minerals and beyond – can continue to be developed responsibly with meaningful Indigenous participation is essential to Canada’s long-term prosperity,” according to the Fall Economic statement.

A three-year investment of $802.1 million will go specifically to the “youth employment and skills strategy” to provide youth from marginalized communities with the support and opportunities they need to develop skills to find and retain jobs.

The specific job training will focus on high-demand sectors, such as the sustainable battery industry, low-carbon building, and retrofits, according to Freeland.

In the meantime, as part of the FES, Canada is now offering a refundable tax credit of up to 30 per cent for investments in eco-friendly electrical sources – like solar power – low carbon heat equipment, and industrial zero-emission vehicles and heavy-duty equipment “used in mining or construction.”

That said, “eco-friendly” resource extraction is an issue of concern for the First Nations and Inuit communities whose ancestral territory is being eyed for development.

Quebec, according to the FES, is one of the provinces with the most federal funding remaining for infrastructure and economic development – which was a campaign cornerstone for Premier Francois Legault while vying for a second term in office.

But the Cree of Eeyou Istchee has repeatedly spoken out against lithium mining on their territory, due in part to flooding and water contamination concerns.

The Algonquin communities of western Quebec have also voiced their opposition to constructing an open-pit “rare minerals” mine on their ancestral lands, saying it would completely ravage traplines and permanently destroy flora and fauna of the area.

In northern Ontario, a massive area that covers 5,000 sq kilometres called the Ring of Fire holds deposits of chromite, copper zinc, gold, diamond, nickel and platinum group elements – some essential to the electric car makers.

According to the province, the area is “one of the most promising mineral development opportunities for critical minerals in the province.

But First Nations in the area are divided. Some communities want projects to go ahead for the jobs while others say the area is a carbon sink and the climate crisis needs to be considered before digging up the muskeg.

While Canada is allocating another $1.8 billion over six years to its Impact Assessment Agency and 12 other government organizations to ensure projects are properly vetted before ground-breaking, there is still no consensus on how to conduct “fair and adequate” consultations with Indigenous communities.

As for possible profit-sharing, the government’s “national benefits-sharing” framework, which is being developed in partnership with Indigenous communities, also won’t see the light of day until 2023, according to Freeland.

Other takeaways from the Fall Economic Statement (FES) 

The new measures introduced in the Fall Economic Statement (FES) are two-pronged: “making life more affordable,” and “investing in jobs, growth, and economy.”

To offset rising costs of living, the government is offering a one-time payout to over 11 million “low and modest income” people, which will be the equivalent of doubling the GST credit for six months.

For example, singles without children will receive $234, and couples with at least two children will receive $467.

The federal government also topped off the Canada Housing Benefit, doubling the amount tabled during the 2022 budget in order to reach twice as many Canadians as initially promised.

As part of the FES, the government is also introducing a “multi-generational home renovation tax credit” of up to $7500 to help in the construction of a “secondary suite” for a family member who is a senior, or an adult with a disability. These funds can be accessed as of January 2023.

The government is also eliminating interest on Federal student loans – including those currently being repaid – as of April 2023.

And in order to assist in rebuilding Atlantic Canada and Eastern Quebec after Hurricane Fiona, the Feds are setting aside an additional $1 billion “in anticipation of Hurricane Fiona-related requests from provinces.”

“Studies suggest that climate disasters disproportionately impact certain groups, including Indigenous communities, seniors, women, new immigrants, and cultural minorities, as well as low-income households,” according to the FES document.

Looking ahead: what’s to come 

As part of the FES, the federal government also provided an update on budget promises made to “advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”

So far, for the 2022-2023 period, the initiatives receiving the most federal funding are “First Nations Emergency Management” ($117 million), First Nations Child and Family Services and implementation of ‘Jordan’s Principle’ ($90 million), “Improving long-term and continuing care in Indigenous communities ($58 million) and “Indigenous childhood claims” ($43 million).

But this funding breakdown also gives us an advanced snapshot of which portfolios will be getting more funding with the tabling of the 2023-2024 budget.

For example, funding for the implementation of Federal Bill C-92, An act respecting First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children, Youth and Families, was one of the top-funded portfolios this year with $273 million invested so far.

However, according to the government’s breakdown, that funding could increase to $431 million next year.

“On reserve income assistance,” as another example, will see its funding increased tenfold in the next year – from $30 million in 2022-2023, to $310 million in 2023-2024.

Another significant figure – and one-time investment by the Federal government – that sticks out is the amount spent during the Papal visit in July.

According to the FES documents, Canada spent $48 million on “supporting Indigenous participation.”

However, Crown Indigenous-Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) have not provided a detailed breakdown of how that money was used.

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