Promises and reactions: What was in the 2019 federal budget

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers questions prior to the Saskatoon town hall in March of 2017. The Prime Minister answered a Daily Herald question on suicide attempts by noting the millions his government committed to Indigenous mental health supports.

The federal Liberals provided their pitch to voters in the form of another large spending package in the 2019-20 federal budget.

Here’s a rundown of some of those measures, what reaction has been so far and how they could impact local residents


What they promised:
$1.25 billion over three years, starting in 2019-20 for CMHC to share the cost of mortgages

How it will work:
Eligible buyers who have household incomes under $120,000 per year and who have the minimum down payment for an insured mortgage would be able to apply to finance part of their home purchase through a shared equity mortgage. Five per cent of the equity would be shared for existing homes and ten for new builds.

If, for example, someone purchases a $400,000 home with a five per cent downpayment and a five per cent shared equity mortgage, their mortgage would be reduced from $380,000 to $360,000, lowering their monthly purchases.

What they promised:
An increase to the home buyers plan, allowing first-time buyers to withdraw up to $35,000 from their RRSP to purchase or build a home, without having to pay tax on the amount. Must be repaid over a 15-year period. Increases the limit to $35,000 from $25,000, and is expanded to individuals who experience a breakdown in their marriage or common-law relationship, but aren’t first-time buyers

The measure is expected to cot $145 million over five years.

What they promised:
An expansion of the rental construction financing initiative, providing low-cost loans for the construction of housing for modest and middle-income Canadians.

The expansion will see a federal investment of $10 billion over the next nine years, creating an estimated 42,500 new units in areas with low rental housing supply.

In addition, the government will provide $300 million for a new housing supply challenge, inviting municipalities and other groups to propose new ways to break down barriers that limit the creation of new housing. It will be funded through a merit-based competition.

Job Creation

What they promised:
A new non-taxable Canada training credit to help with fees and a new EI benefit to provide income support when individuals require time off work to receive training

How they will work:
The tax credit will target Canadians aged 25-64. They will accumulate $250 in credit per year, to a lifetime accrual limit of $5,000. They need to have a minimum of $10,000 in annual earnings and an income below $150,000.

The credit can be used for fees at colleges, universities and other eligible institutions, and would apply against up to half of the cost of training fees.

The EI benefit allows for up to four weeks of paid leave in a four-year period at 55 per cent of earnings. Workers need to accumulate 600 insurable hours to be eligible. The EI small business rebate is included.

The reaction:
The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) released a statement addressing the proposed training changes, expressing concerns about how they could impact businesses.

“While supportive of action to address the growing skills and labour shortage, CFIB has reservations about the new Canada Training Benefit. This new and expensive program will increase the cost of the Employment Insurance (EI) system by over $300 million per year with no guarantee of any link to the needs of employers,” the organization wrote, citing concerns that the training is relevant to obtaining or improving employment.

“CFIB is pleased government is planning an EI Small Business Premium Rebate to help cover some of the increased costs to fund the new program, but calls on the federal and provincial governments for significant consultation to ensure the needs of employers are considered before launching any EI benefits or job protection requirements.”


What they promised:
While an actual, federal pharmacare program is still a ways away, the federal government took the first steps that could lead to a national drug plan.

For one, the Liberals promised $35 million over four years to form a Canadian Drug Agency to coordinate the negotiation of prescription drug prices and develop a national formulary.

The federal government promised an additional $1 billion over two years, starting in 2022, to help Canadians with rare diseases access drugs.

The reaction:
Regina MP Erin Weir shared his thoughts on this one.

“Many expected today’s budget to unveil some version of pharmacare,” he said.

“The budget instead establishes a drug agency to develop a national formulary. In terms of public policy, those are necessary steps toward pharmacare. In terms of politics, these steps position the Liberals to announce a pharmacare program as part of their election platform.


What they promised:
An enhanced guaranteed income supplement (GIS) in 2020-21

How it will work:
Seniors with self-employment or employment income will have a full exemption of $5,000 per year (up from $3,500) and a partial exemption of 50 per cent of their next $10,000 of income for their GIS allowance. This is up from

What they promised:
To proactively enrol CPP contributors aged 70 or over in 2020 who have not yet applied for their benefit An estimated 40,000 individuals over the age of 70 would begin to receive about $302 per month.

An additional $100 million for the New Horizons Seniors program, which offers up to $25,000 to support local projects and $5 million for national projects benefitting seniors

$50 million over five years starting in 2019-20 to support the implementation of Canada’s first national dementia strategy, due this spring.

High-speed internet

What they promised:
A target of 95 per cent of homed and businesses reaching the desired speeds of 50 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload by 2026, with 100 per cent coverage by 2030.

How it will work:
An investment of $5 to 6 billion over the next ten years for investments in rural broadband

Work alongside the provinces, territories and the RTC with its $750 million rural/remote broadband fund to improve service

Securing low-earth orbiting satellite capacity to serve rural and remote regions

$1.7 billion over 13 years for the expansion of backbone infrastructure, which helps serve more regions with better performance

Up to $11.5 million over five years for two surveys to measure household access and use of internet and businesses’ online behaviour

The reaction:
This budget measure was widely praised, with the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) speaking out in favour of the promise.

“Saskatchewan’s hometowns are hubs of growth and innovation,” said SUMA president Gordon Barnhart.

“Access to reliable, fast, and affordable broadband will foster increased growth and improve quality of life for residents.”

Phoenix Pay System

What they promised:
The federal government will be spending an additional $21.7 million to address “urgent pay administration pressure” and an additional $523.2 million over five years to ensure adequate resources are dedicated to payroll areas, with support improvements to reduce the likelihood of errors

The reaction:
The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represents many employees impacted by Phoenix Pay issues, didn’t see the promise as sufficient.

“PSAC welcomes the new funding commitments made in today’s budget to address the Phoenix pay disaster, but they fall significantly short of what is required to end the pay nightmares of Canada’s federal public service workers,” they wrote in a statement.

“The over 200,000 workers that have been impacted by Phoenix need long-term funding dedicated to: eliminating the backlog of pay problems; stabilizing Phoenix; compensating workers for their many hardships; and providing enough resources to properly develop, test and launch a new pay system. The amounts budgeted for the next 4 years will not be sufficient to meet those objectives, and over 70% of that funding is earmarked for this fiscal year, leaving little for future needs.”


What they promised:
Municipalities will get a boost from the federal government, with a one-time payout of an additional $2.2 billion from the federal gas tax fund. That money will go to fund short-term priorities in municipalities and First Nations.

Municipalities can also apply for a piece of the $1.01 billion in additional funding given to the Green Municipal Fund, administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Of that money, $450 million will be available to municipalities and non-profits for energy0efficient retrofits, with the remainder of the funds set out to finance home energy retrofits and retrofits of affordable housing developments.

The reaction:
Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne, who was driving to Regina ahead of today’s provincial budget, was pleased with the news, as the city benefits from the gas tax funding envelope.

SUMA also praised the increase in one-time funding.

“Municipalities are responsible for the infrastructure that residents rely on daily, from delivering safe drinking water to waste management,” SUMA said.

“Today’s federal budget recognizes the value of continued investment in our hometowns.”

What they promised:
A target of 100 per cent zero-emission vehicles (electric, hybrid or hydrogen fuel cell) by 2040

How it will work:
The federal government is promising $130 million over five years to Natural Resources Canada to deploy new recharging and refuelling stations for electric vehicles

$5 million over five years to secure voluntary zero-emission sales targets with manufacturers

$300 million over three years to introduce a new federal purchase incentive of up to $5,000 for electrical battery or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles with an MSRP of under $45,000.

Businesses will be eligible for a full tax write off in the year their new zero-emissions vehicles are put to use, up to $55,000 plus tax per vehicle.

Mental health

What they promised:
$30.5 million over five years and $1 million ongoing for targeted measures to address gaps in harm reduction and treatment, including expanding access to the safe supply of prescription opioids, support for better access to naloxone and opioid overdose training in underserved communities

$25 million over five years to support a pan-Canadian suicide prevention service, available through voice, text or chat.

Regional projects

What they promised:
$100 million over three years to increase Western Economic Diversification Canada programming

$1 million in new funding for Western Economic Diversification Canada to develop a new strategy to manage water and land in the prairies, assessing the impact of climate change and ensuring greater resilience.

$251.3 million over three years to expand innovation and market access for the Canadian forestry industry

$100 million over four years to support clean resource innovation

A one-time investment of $65 million for STARS to acquire new helicopters.

The reaction:
APAS praised some regional initiatives and criticized others.

 “It appears that the government has listened to our concerns and will provide a solution to the Cardlock situation before the April 1st implementation of the Carbon Tax,” APAS president Todd Lewis said but added that APAS still needs to clarify the process for producers.

“We would have liked to see some recognition of the long-term financial impacts of the Carbon Tax on agricultural producers,” Lewis said.

He also more positive aspects of the 2019 Budget; including programs to expand rural high-speed internet service, infrastructure funding eligibility for short line railways, and funding for a study on land and water resources on the Prairie Provinces.

CFIB joined APAS in criticism of the carbon tax, also criticizing the federal government for failing to balance the budget.