PACP Committee Report
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LONG-TERM EFFECTIVENESS OF
Report to the Public Accounts Committee
By injecting over $63 billion in timely fiscal stimulus, Canada’s Economic Action Plan provided strong and immediate support to the Canadian economy during the 2008-09 global financial and economic crisis to encourage growth, protect jobs, and restore household and business confidence.
The implementation of the stimulus phase of the Economic Action Plan was timely and completed as planned. The Government carefully designed and managed the stimulus to ensure the sound stewardship of taxpayer funds.
At the federal level, it is estimated that over $45 billion was delivered through the stimulus phase of the Economic Action Plan, generating a significant boost to jobs and growth.
From the outset of the stimulus phase of the Economic Action Plan in early 2009, the Government worked and cooperated closely with governments of all stripes at the provincial and territorial levels to identify priority and shovel-ready infrastructure projects.
For many stimulus programs, the Government required that federal contributions be matched by equal or greater contributions from provinces, territories and municipalities, thereby ensuring maximum impact from the Economic Action Plan.
In many cases, provinces, territories and municipalities chose to contribute more than the amounts required under program contribution agreements, thereby allowing larger and more ambitious infrastructure projects to be funded through the Plan. Taking into account these additional contributions, it is estimated that over $63 billion in stimulus and tax reductions were delivered to the economy between 2009–10 and 2011–12.
As noted in the fall 2010 report of the Auditor General:
(…) the programs (...) were designed in a manner to allow for timely implementation while maintaining suitable controls.
By dampening the impact of the recession and supporting the recovery, the temporary stimulus measures will also provide ongoing benefits as they served to minimize the loss of knowledge, skills and capital associated with unemployment and recessions.
Moreover, many measures in the Economic Action Plan were intended not only to provide short-term support to the economy but also to deliver lasting benefits to the Canadian economy and sustain and build on Canada’s economic advantages. These measures:
As noted in ‘The Stimulus Phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan: A Final Report to Canadians’, over 30,000 projects were completed with support from Canada’s Economic Action Plan, since January 2009. These included:
It represented one of the largest stimulus packages in the G7 and was successful in helping Canada outperform other major advanced economies during the recession and subsequent recovery. Indeed, Canada has more than recovered all of the jobs and output lost during the global recession – one of the few G7 countries to achieve this result. Canada’s net debt in relation to the economy also remains (and is forecasted to continue to remain) the lowest in the G7 by far.
The remainder of this report shows how measures in the Economic Action Plan will continue to improve Canadians’ standard of living over the long term by laying the foundation for sustainable economic growth and by creating strategic advantages that will allow Canada to be well positioned when global growth strengthens.
2. Reducing the tax burden on Canadians and Canadian businesses
Canada’s Economic Action Plan provided over $20 billion in tax relief for individuals, families and businesses over the 2008-09 to 2013-14 period, bringing total relief from measures introduced by the Government since 2006 to $220 billion during this same period. In addition, the Economic Action Plan made Canada a tariff-free zone for industrial manufacturing, a first in the G20.
Canada’s Economic Action Plan provided significant permanent personal income tax relief through increases in the amount of income that all Canadians can earn before paying federal income taxes or before being subject to higher tax rates. The Working Income Tax Benefit was also effectively doubled under Canada’s Economic Action Plan, making work more rewarding for about 1.5 million low-income Canadians. In addition, benefits for families with children provided by the National Child Benefit supplement and the Canada Child Tax Benefit were increased, and more tax relief was provided for low- and middle-income seniors through an increase in the Age Credit amount.
The Economic Action Plan also provided tax relief designed to help position businesses to weather the effects of global economic challenges, invest in Canada, and spur innovation and growth—thereby creating more and better-paying jobs for Canadians. The temporary 100-per-cent capital cost allowance (CCA) rate for computers and the temporary accelerated CCA rate for investments in manufacturing or processing machinery and equipment were designed to raise Canada’s productivity through the faster adoption of newer technology and by encouraging the retooling needed for long-term success. Additional tax relief for small businesses, through a permanent increase to $500,000 in the amount of income eligible for the preferential small business tax rate, is helping small businesses retain more of their earnings for reinvestment, expansion and job creation.
The Economic Action Plan also made Canada a tariff-free zone for industrial manufacturing by permanently eliminating more than 1,800 tariffs on manufacturing inputs and machinery and equipment, making Canada a more attractive place for investors and encouraging innovation.
The basic function of the tax system is to raise the revenue necessary for the Government to fund its expenditures in a manner that minimizes both the distortions it creates and its negative impact on economic growth. An economically efficient tax system supports economic growth and improves living standards by facilitating the flow of factors of production (i.e., labour and capital) to their most productive use over the long run.
Lowering personal income taxes increases the amount of money Canadians take home for their work. These tax reductions induce spending increases by households, particularly those with lower incomes, which boost domestic expenditure in the short term. Over the longer term, permanent personal income tax reductions encourage individuals to work and save more, which provides greater support for sustainable economic growth by increasing spending, investment, capital accumulation and employment growth. The Working Income Tax Benefit, in particular, provides benefits to low-income Canadians while strengthening work incentives for those already in the workforce and encouraging others with low-income to enter the workforce.
A competitive business tax system is essential for creating an environment that encourages new investment, growth and job creation. Tax reductions in the Economic Action Plan built on actions taken since 2006 and reinforced the Government’s ambitious agenda of creating a tax system that encourages new business investment in Canada, in order to raise Canada’s productivity and potential growth. As a result of federal and provincial actions, including the elimination of the federal capital tax in 2006 and a financial incentive to encourage provinces to eliminate their capital taxes, Canada now has an overall tax rate on new business investment that is lower than that in any other G7 country and below the average of the member countries of the OECD.
Rate reductions and other business tax changes have reduced the cost of capital and increased the expected rate of return on investment, thereby encouraging firms to invest more in Canada. A Department of Finance study – Corporate Income Taxes and Investment: Evidence From the 2001–2004 Rate Reductions – examined the impact of federal corporate income tax rate reductions and found a strong relationship between taxation and investment. This finding is consistent with a number of other studies that have examined the impact of taxes on investment. In particular, a major OECD study ranked the impact of different taxes on economic growth and concluded that corporate tax reductions will have the largest impact on growth.
Based on the Department’s study, the reduction in the cost of capital from federal and provincial business tax changes between 2006 and 2012 would be expected to increase the capital stock in the long run by almost 4 per cent. The capital stock represents the productive physical assets available to businesses and workers, and is a key driver of productivity.
Lower tariffs on manufacturing inputs and machinery and equipment reduce manufacturers’ production costs and allow them to invest in needed machinery and equipment. Such investment is critical to Canada’s long-term prosperity. By reducing the cost of importing key factors of production, such as manufacturing equipment, tariff relief encourages innovation and allows businesses to enhance their stock of capital equipment, raising the potential growth rate of the Canadian economy. Budget 2010 estimated that making Canada a tariff-free zone for industrial manufacturing would result in the creation of up to 12,000 jobs over time.
The Government’s actions to improve the environment for business investment have been reflected in the resilience of the economic recovery, in particular the strength of business investment. Indeed, Canada is the only G7 country to have more than fully recovered the business investment that was lost during the recession.
3. Fostering skills, training and innovation
To succeed in the economy of tomorrow, Canada must have a highly educated, skilled and flexible workforce as well as innovative firms. In addition to helping Canadians through a difficult economic period, initiatives launched under Canada’s Economic Action Plan aim to support skills development and promote research and development so that Canadians can prosper in a changing economy.
Budgets 2009 and 2010 provided important resources to protect Canadian jobs from the effects of the economic recession and support workers who lost their jobs. These measures included strengthening employment insurance (EI) benefits, extending the duration and the scope of the work-sharing program, and temporarily freezing EI premium rates. Budgets 2009 and 2010 also included about $2 billion over two years to help Canadians access skills development and training opportunities. This included additional resources for short- and long-term skills upgrading, investments to improve the labour market outcomes of under-represented groups such as Aboriginal people, and to help young Canadians find summer jobs. Canada’s immigration system has also been streamlined to better respond to the needs of the Canadian labour market, along with investments to develop a national foreign credential recognition framework in partnership with provinces and territories.
Budgets 2009 and 2010 also announced major new investments in post-secondary education, innovation, and science and technology, which amounted to more than $3 billion over two years. Investment in post-secondary education and research included the modernization of the Canada Student Loan Program and the creation of new scholarships and research grants. In particular, Budgets 2009 and 2010 provided about $70 million over two years to temporarily expand the Canada Graduate Scholarships program. Furthermore, an additional $4 million over two years was allocated to offer an additional 600 graduate internships through the Industrial Research and Development Internship program launched in Budget 2007. The Government has also increased its direct support for science and technology through investments to modernize federal laboratories, to further support small and medium-sized firms to innovate, improve broadband access, and spur research in clean energy and space technology.
Because of the quick and decisive measures taken by the Government, Canada’s economy has more than recovered all of the jobs lost during the downturn. Moreover, investment in skills, training, and innovation will deliver lasting benefits to the Canadian economy as these areas are fundamental drivers of economic progress and standards of living in the long run.
Additional resources for EI benefits provided temporary financial assistance to unemployed Canadians while they looked for work and upgraded their skills. Keeping EI rates frozen and extending the duration and scope of the work-sharing program also helped to protect Canadian workers from the effects of the economic recession by allowing more workers to keep their jobs. Enhancing the availability of training and further developing a highly skilled workforce, along with better recognition of credentials, increases our workforce flexibility and helps individuals find better jobs. Higher levels of training and education also provides a strong foundation for innovation and gains in productivity. In particular, higher skill levels raise economic performance through its effects on the adoption of new technologies and more innovative and productive work practices. A more productive economy leads to higher employment and income and, therefore, a higher standard of living for Canadians.
The empirical evidence suggests that skills investment has a positive and significant effect on the long-run levels of labour productivity and GDP per capita in an economy and plays a significant role in explaining why some regions have higher per-capita income than others. Investment in education and the promotion of a highly skilled workforce also contribute to innovation through the generation of new knowledge used to create new products and processes.
The Government’s support to research and development encourages firms to be more innovative and adopt new technologies. There is a wide consensus that innovative activity is one of the main sources of technological progress and, ultimately, economic growth.
The empirical evidence suggests that innovation and investment in research and development contribute to output growth not only at the time of investment but also in later years. OECD analysis suggests that investment in intangible assets related to innovation (R&D, software, skills, organizational know-how and branding) is strongly linked to a country’s productivity performance. An innovative economy also contributes to the creation of new jobs. OECD cross-country analysis finds that employment in less productive firms tends to decline, while more productive firms create additional jobs. In the long run, innovation and employment creation go hand in hand, contributing to a high-employment economy and raising a country’s standard of living.
Indeed, this is demonstrated through one particular program, the Knowledge Infrastructure Program (KIP). KIP had two objectives: first, to respond to a global economic recession by helping to create jobs; and second, lay the groundwork for future economic prosperity by upgrading campuses for scientific advancement generated by future students and researchers.
On both points, KIP was an overwhelming success. This $2 billion federal program was designed to secure matching funds from other sources, and KIP leveraged more than $3 billion in support, resulting in a total investment of more than $5 billion. Projects were supported in communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast. These projects benefitted the local economies by helping create jobs, when they were needed the most.
Equally important was the lasting legacy of the over 500 completed KIP projects. This legacy includes: improved capacity for research, the development of highly qualified people; significantly more classroom, lab and library space and training facilities; safer and more energy-efficient buildings (KIP projects have reduced green-house gas emissions by over 175 tonnes— saving universities and colleges $23 million in operating costs each year); and venues for business incubation and for academia and the private sector to work together.
4. Modernizing Canada’s infrastructure
In 2007, the Government introduced the seven-year, $33-billion Building Canada plan to support investments in provincial, territorial, and municipal infrastructure projects across the country. Canada’s Economic Action Plan accelerated these investments and expanded them by an additional $13 billion over two years, with new funding for: the construction and repair of roads, bridges, water, wastewater facilities and distribution systems, public transit, municipal and cultural infrastructure, small craft harbours, broadband internet access, electronic health records, laboratories, and border crossings across the country. What’s more, predictable and long-term funding was provided for municipalities as the Gas Tax Fund was made a permanent measure.
Canada’s Economic Action Plan allocated $2 billion to improve infrastructure at universities and colleges. $230 million was spent to modernize federal laboratories. Support for home ownership and investment in social housing was also provided, including the allocation of $1 billion for the renovation and retrofit of social housing and $2 billion in loans to municipalities for housing-related infrastructure. Budget 2009 also introduced tax measures to support home ownership and the housing sector, including the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit, an increase to the Home Buyers’ Plan withdrawal limit to provide first-time home buyers with greater access to Registered Retirement Savings Plan savings to help purchase or build a home, and the temporary Home Renovation Tax Credit. Finally, Budgets 2009 and 2010 allocated $380 million under the ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes Program to improve the energy efficiency of Canadian homes.
These infrastructure-related measures helped to reduce the negative impact on the Canadian economy from the global financial and economic crisis by providing an immediate stimulus during the recession. However, these measures have longer term impact as they increase productivity, enhance the functioning of markets and contribute to improving the quality of life.
Efficient public infrastructure directly helps productivity by lowering the cost to businesses of producing and delivering their goods and services to domestic and foreign markets (e.g., through better roads, bridges, harbours and border crossings) and by increasing our research capacity (e.g., through funding for universities, colleges and laboratories). Transport and communication infrastructure, which are particularly important for a geographically diverse country such as Canada, allow firms to be exposed to new consumer demands and other firms, increase the optimal size of any given firm’s market and thus foster specialization, and enhance competition. Research and education infrastructure fosters more innovative and effective learning environments and improves our research capacity. Greater competition, specialization and research capacity promote innovation and productivity. An innovative and knowledge-based economy creates higher-skilled employment, generating higher income, and raising a country’s standard of living.
Economic studies suggest investment in infrastructure has positive long-term effects on the economy and economic well-being, as it increases the return on private capital, thereby stimulating private investment and productivity. There is also empirical evidence in support of the positive contribution of public capital to long term productivity in Canada. Investments in public infrastructure can also improve quality of life for Canadians, notably through a cleaner environment and by promoting strong, sustainable, competitive and liveable Canadian communities.
Programs supporting home ownership help to improve the quality of life of Canadians, preserve their wealth —since it is the most significant asset for most households— and increases the incentive for individuals to invest in their community. Investment in social housing is improving the quality of life of low-income and more vulnerable Canadians.
5. Making product and financial markets more efficient and supporting industries and communities
Canada’s Economic Action Plan strengthened our financial system during the crisis by providing extraordinary liquidity to the financial system to mitigate the impact of the global credit crunch on the Canadian economy. A number of measures were implemented to reinforce the long-term stability of the financial sector. In Budget 2009, the authority for the Minister of Finance to enter into transactions that promote financial stability and maintain efficient and well-functioning markets was broadened and the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) was provided with greater flexibility to resolve a failed member institution in ways that would promote financial stability. The Government reiterated its commitment to work collaboratively with willing provinces and territories to establish a common securities regulator that would give Canada a competitive advantage by reducing unnecessary regulatory costs for issuers, strengthening our ability to respond to financial instability, better protecting investors and enhancing enforcement. Since 2008, the Government has taken action on four occasions to adjust the rules for government-backed mortgages and support the long-term stability of Canada’s mortgage and housing markets.
Budget 2010 improved the regulatory system and reduced red tape by streamlining regulation, eliminating duplicate requirements, and reducing information requirements. In particular, it established the Red Tape Reduction Commission, streamlined the Northern Regulatory Regime, removed the existing restrictions on foreign ownership of Canadian satellites and implemented several measures to reduce the administrative burden of the tax and tariff system.
Canada’s Economic Action Plan provided support to create and protect jobs in the regions, communities and industries of the Canadian economy that were the most affected by the global recession. This support addressed the economic challenges faced by traditional industries such as forestry, agriculture and manufacturing, which continue to play important roles in the economies of many communities across the country. Targeted support not only helped key sectors weather short-term economic challenges, but also helped industries bolster their competitiveness and position themselves for long-term success. For example, Budget 2009 provided funding to the Transformative Technologies, Canada Wood, Value to Wood and North-America Wood First programs to help the forestry sector develop and market innovative products and technologies. Budget 2009 also improved the automotive sector’s access to credit. Budget 2010 provided new resources to regional agencies for promoting innovation and the commercialization of research in communities across Canada.
Making our financial system more resilient increases financial stability and Canadians’ confidence in financial markets. Both of these results will reduce the risk of financial crisis over the long run. The positive impact of financial stability on the level of income over the long term is well illustrated by several studies conducted by the Bank of Canada and the Bank of International Settlements (BIS).
More efficient and less burdensome regulation improves competition and encourages investment, while allowing businesses to invest more of their time in managing and growing their business. This will lead to more jobs and higher income in the long run. For example, a review of the literature on regulatory policy and governance conducted by the OECD confirms that poorly designed regulation can stifle economic activities and reduce economic growth. Statistics Canada estimated that it cost more than $2,000 per employee for small and medium-size businesses to comply with regulations in 2008.
Actions to encourage important economic sectors to take the necessary steps to improve their competitiveness help our economy to compete globally and take advantage of global opportunities. A more competitive economy leads to more jobs and higher income in the long run. Providing support to industries and communities also helped maintain their capital and knowledge. Maintaining output stability also reduced uncertainty and encouraged investment. This meant the economy was better-positioned to take advantage of the global recovery.
6. Protecting Canada’s sound fiscal situation for future generations
The Government’s responsible financial management put Canada in a position of strength when it came time to combat the global recession. Between 2006 and 2008, the Government paid down over $37 billion in debt, significantly contributing to Canada’s low net debt position. This enabled the Government to quickly put in place one of the largest stimulus packages in the G7, which was timely, targeted and temporary, without leaving the country in a vulnerable fiscal position like many other major countries.
The Government’s medium-term fiscal plan is founded on returning to balanced budgets without raising taxes or cutting major transfers to persons and other levels of government. The means to achieve this goal have been well established, beginning with Budget 2009 stimulus measures being explicitly designed to be temporary. The plan was augmented in subsequent budgets with targeted actions to control the growth in direct program spending, including a comprehensive review of government administrative functions and overhead costs that will ensure that average growth of program spending is about half the rate of growth in revenues over the forecast horizon.
Responsible fiscal management – balancing the budget and reducing debt – does far more than just provide room to manoeuvre when the economy is negatively affected by developments outside our borders. Responsible fiscal management contributes to strong economic growth and job creation over the long term. Reducing debt:
In addition, the comprehensive reviews undertaken to contain the administrative cost of government and improve efficiency will continue to yield benefits to Canadians long after balanced budgets are achieved; these reviews will generate ongoing savings and will work to maximize the value of public services obtained in exchange for Canadians’ hard-earned tax dollars.
The International Monetary Fund supports the objective of returning to a balanced budget position in the medium term and noted in its December 2012 Concluding Statement to Canada’s 2012 Article IV Mission that “the timing and pace of the ongoing fiscal consolidation process are appropriate”.
The projections released by the Department of Finance Canada in October 2012, in a document entitled Economic and Fiscal Implications of Canada’s Aging Population, suggest that the actions taken by the Government should be sufficient to ensure long-term fiscal sustainability based on current demographic and economic trends.
Since 2006, the Government has supported the security and prosperity of Canadians and promoted business investment to create jobs. When the global financial and economic crisis struck, the Government’s sound fiscal position provided the flexibility to introduce a timely, targeted and temporary stimulus package – The Economic Action Plan – that was one of the strongest responses to the global recession among G7 countries. The Economic Action Plan, together with a sound economic, fiscal, and financial foundation, was successful in helping Canada to outperform other major advanced economies during the recession and the subsequent recovery. Indeed, over 950,000 net new jobs have been created in Canada since the depth of the global recession in July 2009 (90% full-time and nearly 80% private sector). This represents the best job creation record in the G7.
The Economic Action Plan also took important steps to further strengthen Canada’s economic fundamentals and encourage growth and job creation by keeping taxes low, making financial and
product markets more efficient, modernizing our infrastructure, and encouraging innovation and skill development. Empirical evidence and international experience demonstrate that these actions will contribute positively to Canadians’ standard of living over the long term. Moreover, Canada’s Economic Action Plan and subsequent actions have ensured these actions and our social programs will be sustainable over the long term by committing to return to balanced budgets over the medium term and managing public finances in a responsible manner.
 Coulombe, S., J.-F. Tremblay,
and S. Marchand. 2004. Literacy Scores, Human Capital and Growth Across
 Coulombe, S. and J.-F. Tremblay
(2007), “Skills, Education, and Canadian Provincial Disparity”, Journal
 Scarpetta, S., P. Hemmings, T. Tressel and J. Woo (2002), “The role of policy and institutions for productivity and firm dynamics: evidence from micro and industry data”, OECD Economics Department Working Papers, No. 329.
 Estimates suggest that investment in intangible assets accounted for between two-thirds and three-quarters of labour productivity growth in OECD countries such as Austria, Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States between 1995 and 2006. Source: OECD (2010), “The OECD Innovation Strategy: Getting a Head Start on Tomorrow”.
 Baxter, M. and R. J. King (1993), “Fiscal Policy in General Equilibrium”, The American Economic Review, vol. 83, No 3, pp. 315-334; Leeper, E. M., T. B. Walker and S-C S. Yang (2009), “Government Investment and Fiscal Stimulus in the Short and Long Runs”, National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 15153.
 Wylie, P. J. (1996), “Infrastructure and Canadian Economic Growth 1946-1991”, Canadian Economic Review/Revue Canadienne d’Économique, Special Issue: Part 1, pp. S350-S355; Harchaoui, T. and F. Tarkhani (2003), “Public capital and its contribution to the productivity performance of the Canadian business sector“, Statistics Canada, Research Paper; Gu, W. and R. MacDonald (2009), “The Impact of Public Infrastructures on Canadian Multifactor Productivity Estimates“, Statistics Canada, Research Paper.
 See DiPasquale, D. and E. Glaeser (1999), “Incentives and Social Capital: Are Homeowners Better Citizens?” Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, Vol. 45(2).
 See for example: “Strengthening International capital and liquidity standards: A macroeconomic impact assessment for Canada”, Bank of Canada, August 2010; “An assessment of the long-term economic impact of stronger capital and liquidity requirements”, Bank of International Settlements, August 2010.
 Parker, D. and C. Kirkpatrick, “The Economic Impact of Regulatory Policy: A Literature Review of Quantitative Evidence”, OECD, Expert paper no. 3, August 2012.
 Economic and Fiscal
Implications of Canada Ageing Population, Department of Finance,