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Business

Federal government’s ‘fudget budget’ relies on fanciful assumptions of productivity growth

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6 minute read

From the Fraser Institute

By Niels Veldhuis and Jake Fuss

Labour productivity isn’t growing, it’s declining. And stretching the analysis over the Trudeau government’s time in office (2015 to 2023, omitting 2020 due to COVID), labour productivity has declined by an average of 0.8 per cent. How can the Trudeau government, then, base the entirety of its budget plan on strong labour productivity growth?

As the federal budget swells to a staggering half a trillion dollars in annual spending—yes, you read that correctly, a whopping $538 billion this year or roughly $13,233 per Canadian—and stretches over 430 pages, it’s become a formidable task for the media to dissect and evaluate. While it’s easy to spot individual initiatives (e.g. the economically damaging capital gains tax increase) and offer commentary, the sheer scale and complexity of the budget make it hard to properly evaluate. Not surprisingly, most post-budget analysts missed a critically important assumption that underlies every number in the budget—the Liberals’ assumption of productivity growth.

Indeed, Canada is suffering a productivity growth crisis. “Canada has seen no productivity growth in recent years,” said Carolyn Rogers, senior deputy governor at the Bank of Canada, in a recent speech. “You’ve seen those signs that say, ‘In emergency, break glass.’ Well, it’s time to break the glass.”

The media widely covered this stark warning, which should have served as a wake-up call, urging the Trudeau government to take immediate action. At the very least, this budget’s ability—or more accurately, inability—to increase productivity growth should have been a core focus of every budget analysis.

Of course, the word “productivity” puts most people, except die-hard economists, to sleep. Or worse, prompts the “You just want us to work harder?” questions. As Rogers noted though, “Increasing productivity means finding ways for people to create more value during the time they’re at work. This is a goal to aim for, not something to fear. When a company increases productivity, that means more revenue, which allows the company to pay higher wages to its workers.”

Clearly, labour productivity growth remains critical to our standard of living and, for governments, ultimately determines the economic growth levels on which they base their revenue assumptions. With $538 billion in spending planned for this year, the Trudeau government better hope it gets its forecasts right. Otherwise, the $39.8 billion deficit they expect this year could be significantly higher.

And here’s the rub. Buried deep in its 430-page budget is the Trudeau government’s assumption about labour productivity growth (page 385, to be exact). You see, the Liberals assume the economy will grow at an average of 1.8 per cent over the next five years (2024-2028) and predict that half that growth will come from the increase in the supply of labour (i.e. population growth) and half will come from labour productivity growth.

However, as the Bank of Canada has noted, labour productivity growth has been non-existent in Canada. The Bank uses data from Statistics Canada to highlight the country’s productivity, and as StatsCan puts it, “On average, over 2023, labour productivity of Canadian businesses fell 1.8 per cent, a third consecutive annual decline.”

In other words, labour productivity isn’t growing, it’s declining. And stretching the analysis over the Trudeau government’s time in office (2015 to 2023, omitting 2020 due to COVID), labour productivity has declined by an average of 0.8 per cent. How can the Trudeau government, then, base the entirety of its budget plan on strong labour productivity growth? It’s what we call a “fudget budget”—make up the numbers to make it work.

The Trudeau fudget budget notwithstanding, how can we increase productivity growth in Canada?

According to the Bank of Canada, “When you compare Canada’s recent productivity record with that of other countries, what really sticks out is how much we lag on investment in machinery, equipment and, importantly, intellectual property.”

Put simply, to increase productivity we need businesses to increase investment. From 2014 to 2022, Canada’s inflation-adjusted business investment per worker (excluding residential construction) declined 18.5 per cent from $20,264 to $16,515. This is a concerning trend considering the vital role investment plays in improving economic output and living standards for Canadians.

But the budget actually hurts—not helps—Canada’s investment climate. By increasing taxes on capital gains, the government will deter investment in the country and encourage a greater outflow of capital. Moreover, the budget forecasts deficits for at least five years, which increases the likelihood of future tax hikes and creates more uncertainty for entrepreneurs, investors and businesses. Such an unpredictable business environment will make it harder to attract investment to Canada.

This year’s federal budget rests on fanciful assumptions about productivity growth while actively deterring the very investment Canada needs to increase living standards for Canadians. That’s a far cry from what any reasonable person would call a successful strategy.

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Automotive

Forget Tariffs: Biden Should Look to Domestic Mining to Thwart Chinese EVs

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Fr0m Heartland Daily News

By Rick Whitbeck

The Biden administration’s decision to raise tariffs on Chinese-manufactured electric vehicles, steel, computer chips, and other technological products is the epitome of a penny wise and a pound foolish.

To much of the nation, the news was a reelection flip-flop, or an attempt to prop up the electric vehicle industry Biden has prioritized since he took office, as part of his green agenda. The international supply chain for electric vehicles isn’t going to magically stop running through the Chinese Communist Party anytime soon.

If Biden really wanted to curb Chinese geopolitical power, he would make fundamental changes to his administration’s history of attacking domestic mining opportunities. Allowing development of copper, graphite, nickel, cobalt, and other critical and strategic minerals right here at home would go much further than imposing tariffs.

Biden has demonstrated affinity for promoting “net zero” policies and forcing transitions away from traditional energy supplies of oil, gas, and coal. In a nutshell, the attacks on domestic mining projects seem completely counterproductive.

According to the International Energy Agency, staggering quantities of subsurface elements will need to be mined by at least five times their current worldwide production by 2040 to meet the Biden administration’s green energy goals. Graphite, cobalt, and lithium all will be needed in quantities exceeding 25 times (or more) their current supplies. In the next quarter century, we will need twice as much copper than has been produced in the last 3,000 years. All of which is impossible when Biden won’t let us dig.

The U.S. has tremendous opportunities to have our own mineral resources. Yet, the Biden administration has thwarted their development at nearly every turn. For example, massive copper and nickel deposits could be developed in Minnesota at the Twin Metals and Duluth Complex projects, but Biden has ordered each of them off-limits for development. The Resolution Copper prospect in Arizona met a similar fate, with the Department of Interior placing on “indefinite hold” its approval.

The Western Hemisphere’s largest copper prospect is Alaska’s Pebble Mine. Kowtowing to environmental extremists—and ignoring a clean U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Final Environmental Impact Statement—the Environmental Protection Agency continues to stymie progress on a deposit worth more than $500 billion. All the while shutting down the possibility of 700 full-time jobs in an area of rural Alaska that has seasonal unemployment exceeding 20%.

Alaska has been the target of more than 60 administrative and executive orders targeting its resource-based economy since Biden assumed office. One of the most recent took place on Earth Day, when a congressionally-authorized road to the Ambler Mining District—an area rich in copper, zinc, and other strategic and critical minerals—was stopped by the Department of Interior.

Just like with the Resolution mine in Arizona, the Interior Department used “Indigenous opposition” as its deciding factor, even though many villages and tribes closest to the mining district publicly support the project and its future employment opportunities. In Alaska, the Biden administration literally blocks the road to the minerals Biden’s tariffs claim to protect.

Alaska’s governor, Michael Dunleavy, along with its entire congressional delegation, has been openly critical of the continued hypocrisy of the Biden administration when it comes to talking “net zero” and acting with vigor to oppose domestic mining projects. The same response has come from many within the Minnesota and Arizona congressional community. They’ve been unable to break through to the administration, as Team Biden chooses to listen to eco-activists and career bureaucrats with an anti-development agenda.

What would hurt China, empower America, and begin to chip away at the global imbalance would be mining and processing our crucial minerals and elements domestically. Let’s see if the Biden administration wises up to that fact, or if America tires of being subservient to the CCP and makes fundamental changes to federal leadership in November.

Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs and fights back against economy-killing and family-destroying environmental extremism. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @PTFAlaska

This article was originally published by RealClearEnergy and made available via RealClearWire.

To read more about domestic mining to escape reliance on China, click here.

To read more about clean energy and mining, click here.

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Business

Government red tape strangling Canada’s economy

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From the Fraser Institute

By Kenneth P. Green

The cost of regulation from all three levels of government to Canadian businesses totalled $38.8 billion in 2020, for a total of 731 million hours—the equivalent of nearly 375,000 fulltime jobs.

One does not have to look too deeply into recent headlines to see that Canada’s economic conditions are declining and consequently eroding the prosperity and living standards of Canadians. Between 2000 and 2023, Canada’s per-person GDP (a key indicator of living standards) has lagged far behind its peer countries. Business investment is also lagging, as are unemployment rates across the country particularly compared to the United States.

There are many reasons for Canada’s dismal economic conditions—including layer upon layer of regulation. Indeed, Canada’s regulatory load is substantial and growing. Between 2009 and 2018, the number of regulations in Canada grew from about 66,000 to 72,000. These regulations restrict business activity, impose costs on firms and reduce economic productivity.

According to a recent “red tape” study published by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), the cost of regulation from all three levels of government to Canadian businesses totalled $38.8 billion in 2020, for a total of 731 million hours—the equivalent of nearly 375,000 fulltime jobs. If we apply a $16.65 per-hour cost (the federal minimum wage in Canada for 2023), $12.2 billion annually is lost to regulatory compliance.

Of course, Canada’s smallest businesses bear a disproportionately high burden of the cost, paying up to five times more for regulatory compliance per-employee than larger businesses. The smallest businesses pay $7,023 per employee annually to comply with government regulation while larger businesses pay a much lower $1,237 per employee for regulatory compliance.

And the Trudeau government has embarked on a massive regulatory spree over the last decade, enacting dozens of major regulatory initiatives including Bill C-69 (which tightens Canada’s environmental assessment process for major infrastructure projects), Bill C-48 (which restricts oil tankers off Canada’s west coast) and electric vehicle mandates (which require all new cars be electric by 2035). Other examples of government red tape include appliance standards to reduce energy consumption from household appliances, home efficiency standards to reduce household energy consumption, banning single-use plastic products, “net zero” nitrous oxide emissions regulation, “net zero” building emissions regulations, and clean electricity standards to drive net emissions of greenhouse gases in electricity production to “net zero” by 2035.

Clearly, Canada’s festooning pile of regulatory red tape is badly in need of weeding. And it can be done. For example, during a deregulatory effort in British Columbia, which appointed a minister of deregulation in 2001, there was a 37 per cent reduction in regulatory requirements in the province by 2004.

Rather with plowing ahead with an ever-growing pallet of regulations to be heaped upon Canadian businesses and citizens, government should reach for the garden shears and start reducing the most recent regulatory expansions (before they have time to do too much harm), and then scour the massive strangling forest of older regulations.

Whacking through the red tape would go a long way to help Canada’s economy out of its dismal state and back into competitive ranges with its fellow developed countries and our neighbours in the U.S.

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