Budget 2017 Advances Infrastructure, Housing Investments

The federal Budget tabled by finance Minister Bill Morneau addresses a broad range of issues that have been raised by local governments in British Columbia. In addition to allocating funding for the second phase of infrastructure commitments announced in 2016, Budget 2017 outlines the funding profile for the soon to be released National Housing Strategy, and includes increased spending focused on child care, home care, mental health, climate change, disaster mitigation and the opioid crisis.

“The commitments made in Budget 2017 will deliver billions in new funding for public transit, water, wastewater and disaster mitigation infrastructure for BC communities,” said UBCM 1st Vice President Wendy Booth. “The new investments that will be coming through the National Housing Strategy demonstrate a recommitment of federal leadership in this area and will make a real impact in the diversification of housing supply in our province. Budget 2017 responds to many issues identified by our membership, and we are very appreciative of the focus and strength of these commitments.”

Elements of the Budget of interest to local government are as follows:

1. Infrastructure

Public Transit Funding

The Government will invest $20.1 billion over 11 years through bilateral agreements with provinces and territories, with provincial and territorial allocations determined using a formula based on ridership (70 per cent) and population (30 per cent). 

Budget 2017 also signals the Government’s interest in seeing the new Canada Infrastructure Bank play a role in defining and building public transit infrastructure in Canada. As part of its mandate to structure, negotiate and deliver federal support for infrastructure projects with revenue-generating potential, the Bank will invest at least $5 billion in public transit systems.

Green Infrastructure

Budget 2017 lays out the Government’s plan to invest $21.9 billion in green infrastructure, including initiatives, including:

$9.2 billion will be provided through bilateral agreements with provinces and territories over the next 11 years, on a base plus per capita allocation basis, to support priority projects, including those that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deliver clean water, safely manage wastewater, help communities prepare for challenges that result from climate change, and help build cleaner, better-connected electricity systems.

At least $5 billion will be available over the next 11 years for green infrastructure projects, including those that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deliver clean air and safe water systems, and promote renewable power.

An additional $2.8 billion will be invested over the next 11 years through a series of national programs, including:

  • 120 million to deploy infrastructure for electric vehicle charging and natural gas and hydrogen refueling stations, as well as to support technology demonstration projects.
  • $182 million to develop and implement new building codes to retrofit existing buildings and build new net-zero energy consumption buildings across Canada.
  • $2 billion for a Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund to support national, provincial and municipal infrastructure required to deal with the effects of a changing climate.

Rural and Northern Communities

The Government will invest $2.0 billion over 11 years to support a broad range of infrastructure projects, to be allocated to provinces and territories on a base plus per capita allocation basis. Projects could include improving road access or expanding Internet connectivity. Other infrastructure improvements could include the renewal and replacement of energy systems in northern communities, so that remote communities can reduce their reliance on diesel.

Smart Cities Challenge

The Government proposes to provide Infrastructure Canada with $300 million over 11 years to launch a Smart Cities Challenge Fund. Modeled on a similar competition in the U.S., the Smart Cities Challenge would invite cities across Canada to develop Smart Cities Plans, together with local government, citizens, businesses and civil society.

Winning cities will be selected through a nationwide, merit-based competition, facilitated by the Government’s new Impact Canada Fund.

Canada Infrastructure Bank

The Government will soon propose legislation establishing the Canada Infrastructure Bank. The Government will begin a process to identify the Bank’s Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Board of Directors, with the goal of having the Canada Infrastructure Bank operational in late 2017.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank will be responsible for investing at least $35 billion over 11 years, using loans, loan guarantees and equity investments. These investments will be made strategically, with a focus on large, transformative projects such as regional transit plans, transportation networks and electricity grid interconnections.

Data Initiative

The Government of Canada and the Canada Infrastructure Bank will work in partnership with provinces, territories, municipalities and Statistics Canada to municipalities better track, collect, use and share the data needed to measure the impact of investments in local government infrastructure. The data initiative will help all levels of government by providing intelligence to better direct infrastructure investments, and will support efforts to:

  • Provide comparable data and information on issues such as infrastructure demand and usage for jurisdictions across the country.
  • Provide a national picture on the state and performance of public infrastructure across asset classes.
  • Deliver high-quality data analytics to help inform policy and decision-making, and promote fact-based dialogue between all orders of government.
  • Track the impacts of infrastructure investments so that governments can report back to Canadians on what has been achieved.

Further details on the initiative will be announced in the coming months.


Budget 2017 proposes to provide $77 million over 10 years to expand the activities of the Enabling Accessibility Fund. Eligible projects will include constructing and renovating infrastructure (e.g., adding ramps, automatic door openers and accessible washrooms), providing accessible information and communication technologies and retrofitting vehicles.

2. National Housing Strategy

Budget 2017 proposes to invest more than $11.2 billion over 11 years to implement the National Housing Strategy, including:

  • Provide approximately $3.2 billion over the next 11 years to provinces and territories to support key priorities for affordable housing. These priorities may include the construction of new affordable housing units; the renovation and repair of existing housing; rent subsidies and other measures to make housing more affordable; and other initiatives to support safe, independent living for Canada’s seniors, persons with disabilities and other individuals requiring accessibility modifications. This investment will be provided through a new, expanded, multilateral investment framework that will replace the existing Investment in Affordable Housing initiative, which is set to expire at the end of 2018–19.
  • Budget 2017 proposes to establish a National Housing Fund to address critical housing issues and prioritize support for vulnerable citizens, including: seniors; Indigenous Peoples; survivors fleeing situations of domestic violence; persons with disabilities; those dealing with mental health and addiction issues; and veterans. Administered through CMHC, this Fund will receive an investment of $5 billion over the next 11 years.

The National Housing Fund will:

  • Encourage greater collaboration and investment in housing: A new co-investment fund will be established to pool resources among many housing partners, including governments, the private sector and community organizations, to prioritize large-scale community renewal projects.
  • Expand direct lending for new rental housing supply and renewal: Building on investments made in Budget 2016, the National Housing Fund will provide municipalities and other housing partners with sustained and improved access to low-cost loans for the repair and renewal of housing units, as well as or the construction of new affordable housing, through the Affordable Rental Housing Financing Initiative. This will leverage billions of dollars available for investment in affordable housing, and help improve the quality and condition of affordable housing across Canada.
  • Support for innovations in affordable housing: To develop a stock of affordable rental housing that delivers a better quality of life for residents, CMHC will make up-front capital contributions available to affordable housing providers. This will encourage innovative approaches to housing development, such as energy efficiency retrofits to lower utility costs, and accessibility modifications to expand the range of housing options available to Canadians living with disabilities.
  • Preserve the affordability of social housing: To help social housing providers maintain rent-geared-to-income units when long-term operating agreements expire, CMHC will provide temporary funding to social housing providers as they transition to more sustainable operating models.
  • Support a strong and sustainable social housing sector: CMHC will also establish a Sector Transformation Fund and Technical Resource Centre to provide technical assistance, tools and resources to help social housing providers transition to more efficient and financially sustainable operating models. Further details about the National Housing Fund will be announced as part of the launch of the National Housing Strategy later this year.
  • Budget 2017 proposes a total investment of $2.1 billion over the next 11 years to expand and extend funding for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy beyond 2018–19, when current funding is scheduled to end. Over the next year, guided by the efforts of an advisory panel of homelessness experts, the Government will consult with stakeholders, provinces, territories and Indigenous partners on how the Homelessness Partnering Strategy can be redesigned to better reduce and prevent homelessness across Canada.
  • Budget 2017 proposes to invest $202 million over the next 11 years to make surplus federal lands and buildings available to housing providers at low or no cost for the development of affordable housing. This includes funding to top up the existing Surplus Federal Real Property for Homelessness Initiative in 2017–18, and a new expanded initiative starting in 2018–19, which will also provide funding for environmental remediation and for renovations or retrofits needed to ensure that the surplus federal buildings are suitable for use as housing.
  • As part of the National Housing Strategy, Budget 2017 proposes to provide $241 million over the next 11 years to CMHC to improve data collection and analytics, which will strengthen the ability to report the outcomes of the National Housing Strategy and make informed policy decisions.
  • To address data gaps in current nationwide housing data, Budget 2017 also proposes to provide $39.9 million over five years, and $6.6 million per year thereafter, to Statistics Canada to develop and implement a new Housing Statistics Framework. This investment is over and above investments under the National Housing Strategy. 

3. Environment

Protecting Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems

To prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species, respond rapidly to the detection of new species, and manage the spread of already established aquatic invasive species, Budget 2017 proposes to provide $43.8 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to continue and expand aquatic invasive species programming.

Budget 2017 proposes to provide up to $70.5 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to Environment and Climate Change Canada to protect Canada’s freshwater resources, including in the Great Lakes and Lake Winnipeg Basins. This investment will refocus efforts to reduce the release of toxic chemicals; pursue ongoing cross-government collaboration on improving water quality, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use; and improve collaboration with Indigenous Peoples.

Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change

The Framework includes a pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution, with the aim of having carbon pricing in place in all provinces and territories by 2018. Provinces and territories have the flexibility to choose between two systems: a direct price on carbon pollution or a cap-and-trade system. The Government will introduce a backstop pricing system that will apply in provinces and territories that do not meet the federal carbon pricing benchmark. In the coming months, the Government will release a consultation paper containing the technical details of the proposed federal carbon pricing backstop mechanism.

Greener Buildings

To continue the work already underway to make the building and industrial sectors more energy efficient, Budget 2017 proposes to provide Natural Resources Canada with $67.5 million over four years, starting in 2018–19, to renew and continue existing energy efficiency programs.

Budget 2017 also proposes to provide Natural Resources Canada with $39.8 million over four years, starting in 2018–19, to support projects and activities that increase the use of wood as a greener substitute material in infrastructure projects (for example, in mid-rise commercial and industrial buildings), helping to create new markets for sustainable Canadian products.

These programs will be supported by another Budget 2017 proposed national program to develop and implement new building codes to retrofit existing buildings and build new net-zero energy consumption buildings across Canada.

4. Early Learning and Childcare

Budget 2017 proposes to invest $7 billion over 10 years, starting in 2018–19, to support and create more high quality, affordable child care spaces across the country. A portion of this investment will be dedicated to early learning and childcare programs for Indigenous children living on- and off-reserve.

The Government is working with the provinces and territories to develop a National Framework on Early Learning and Child Care, focusing on best practices and new approaches to best serve families.

In addition, a distinct Indigenous Framework on Early Learning and Child Care, will be created in cooperation with Indigenous partners. The distinct Indigenous framework will reflect the unique cultures and needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children across Canada.

5. Canada Drugs & Substances Strategy

Budget 2017 proposes to support the national measures associated with the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy through an investment of $100 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, with $22.7 million per year ongoing, for Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. 

Health Canada will support marijuana public education programming and surveillance activities in advance of the Government’s plan to legalize cannabis by directing existing funding of $9.6 million over five years, with $1.0 million per year ongoing.

6. Building Strong First Nations Communities

Budget 2017 proposes to invest an additional $4 billion over 10 years, starting in 2018–19, to build and improve housing, water treatment systems, health facilities and other community infrastructure. This investment will be delivered through the second phase of green infrastructure and social infrastructure funding.

Budget 2017 proposes to provide $3.1 million over three years, starting in 2017–18, to the Privy Council Office, to establish a secretariat that will support the Working Group on the Review of Laws and Policies related to Indigenous Peoples.

Budget 2017 proposes to provide an investment of $81.6 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, to address the most immediate needs of Indigenous police forces, while the Government examines ways to increase the effectiveness of this program.

7. Home Care and Mental Health

Budget 2017 proposes to invest $6 billion over 10 years for home care, and $5 billion over 10 years to support mental health initiatives. These targeted investments have the potential to make a real difference in the lives of all Canadians. Through this funding, Canadians can expect improved access to home, community and palliative care services; more support for informal caregivers; and better access to mental health support for as many as 500,000 young Canadians under the age of 25 who cannot currently receive even basic mental health services.

8. Arts and Culture

Budget 2017 proposes to provide $300 million over 10 years to the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund. This investment will help support the development of Canadian talent, and support entrepreneurialism in the arts and cultural communities.

The Budget Plan is available is available on the Government of Canada website.

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