Archived - Growing our Economy Together: Summary Report on the 2016 Federal Pre-Budget Consultations

William Francis Morneau

As Minister of Finance, investing in and growing the Canadian economy is my number one priority. That is why I have been travelling from coast to coast, listening to what Canadians have to say about our economy and how we can best work together to strengthen it.

If we are to tackle the real challenges we face as a country – from a struggling middle class to the threat of climate change – Canadians need to have faith in their government’s willingness to listen.

That is why the government held unprecedented pre-budget consultations this year, through which we invited all Canadians to have their say. Whether it was in person at one of our many roundtable discussions, via the online pre-budget consultation survey, through our various Facebook Live events and our Google Hangouts, or via email or regular mail – throughout the more than 250,000 interactions we’ve had with you – we have listened. Most importantly, we have heard you, and we are ready to take action.

I have met people from both the public and private sectors to get their views, and the one consistent message I have heard throughout is this: Canadians want us to push forward with our plan to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, and help our most vulnerable.

Throughout these past weeks, I have been both amazed and invigorated by the enthusiasm of Canadians and their unyielding love for this country – in the stories, ideas and comments I heard from the people I have met over the last few months as I travelled across the country for the pre-budget consultations, and in the passion of those who chose to engage with me in proposing ways to grow our economy together.

In the months and years to come, this consultative approach will help guide the federal government’s work with provinces, territories and Indigenous communities – and all Canadians – to bring positive change.

With sincere gratitude,

The Honourable
William F. Morneau
Minister of Finance

The 2016 pre-budget consultations were held from January 6, 2016, to February 23, 2016. These consultations involved a cross-Canada tour by the Minister of Finance and by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. Canadians participated in a number of ways, including in-person roundtable meetings, public events, online chats and forums, and through online submissions, emails, regular mail and faxes.

Throughout these consultations, Canadians provided input as to how they thought their tax dollars should be spent by the government. Through all channels combined, we found that the majority of submissions focused primarily on the following themes:

  • Growing the economy
  • Strengthening the middle class
  • Help for Indigenous communities
  • Clean technology and the environment
  • Health care and other social issues
  • Investments in infrastructure, youth, business, labour, poverty and seniors

The input received from the various channels has made the following clear:

  • Canadians have asked their government to support green innovation and investments that will have a positive economic impact now and for future generations.
  • Canadians have asked their government to help the most vulnerable.
  • Businesses have asked for programs that are geared toward their future needs and that allow them to grow and remain competitive.
  • Canadians have asked for improved access to education and for improved health care services.

This report highlights key findings, and provides descriptions and details of the depth and scope of the consultation process and summaries of the information collected.

The 2016 pre-budget consultations began on January 6, 2016, and closed at midnight, February 23, 2016. In the planning and implementation of these consultations, we adopted a flexible and open approach whereby Canadians could choose to submit information using the mechanism they found most convenient.

This approach allowed as many Canadians as possible to have the opportunity to provide ideas, insight, questions and comments for consideration by the Minister of Finance and the government for Budget 2016.

Numbers of interactions by channel as of February 23, 2016
(combined English and French submissions)

Communication channel Total
Submissions received through the pre-budget consultation online survey 5,267
Submissions received via the pre-budget consultation email account 12,4401
Traditional mail and faxes received 1,135
Participants attending in-person roundtables, chats and events 1,500 (approx.)
Instances that the #PBC16 and #CPB16 hashtags were used on Twitter 8,330
Views for the Facebook Live and YouTube Dalhousie University event held on January 12, 2016 9,912
Views for the Facebook Live and YouTube University of Calgary event held on January 20, 2016 69,632
Views for the Facebook Live Ottawa community centre event held on February 22, 2016 29,510
Submissions and summaries of roundtables forwarded to the Department of Finance Canada by members of Parliament 205
Unique page views of 111,514
Impressions on Finance Canada LinkedIn page 4,152
Total number of interactions 253,597

In total, more than 250,000 interactions with Canadians were made during the pre-budget consultation period – more than any other in history.

Canadians submitted comments through various channels and events across Canada, including roundtable discussions, online submissions, Twitter and Facebook Live events, and submissions from Members of Parliament, following consultations with their constituents.2 The feedback that was received across these channels can be summarized under the following themes.

Nearly all submissions that mentioned taxes were in favour of lowering taxes and simplifying the tax system. In many of the submissions that mentioned the middle class, the tax cuts announced in December 2015 were identified as a welcome measure. There was also support expressed for continued efforts to reduce the taxes on this group and to improve benefits for families with children.

During the in-person roundtables, participants expressed a wide range of opinions on how tax cuts would benefit Canadians, including with regard to which tax cuts would be most effective to which groups and sectors, and how these cuts would benefit the Canadian economy. Discussions at the roundtables and submissions from the general public were frequently indicative of support for such measures as increasing taxes on big business and closing tax loopholes.

Participants using social media also mentioned simplifying the tax system, addressing tax evasion and tax loopholes. It was also mentioned that small business tax rates should be reduced.

There was broad support for seeking to achieve economic growth through the federal budget. Overall, submissions represented many aspects of what growth means to Canadians, including economic, social and environmental factors. Some participants felt this would be best achieved by improving Canada’s competitiveness, namely by ensuring that Canada remains a top investment destination. For others, growth priorities were about developing talent and improving education and employment outcomes.

Most submissions and comments received at the roundtables revealed broad support for the idea of government investment in infrastructure. Generally, input received in email and online submissions focused on deteriorating roads, bridges, public transportation and municipal infrastructure. Through social media, participants also identified infrastructure needs, such as clean drinking water, schools, roads, environmental sustainability, public transit and light rail, as a priority for the government.

Many of the recommendations made at the roundtables stressed the importance of obtaining value and growth from new initiatives (for example, public transport and investments in renewable technology). Individuals expressed interest in the maintenance and improvement of current infrastructure rather than focusing solely on new projects. Participants also noted the importance of working collaboratively with all levels of government. A theme raised through both roundtables and social media channels was the need to invest in a more inclusive information technology infrastructure to ensure that Internet access is available in outlying areas of each province and territory.

Protecting the environment was mentioned as a priority in the various consultation channels. Suggestions from the public included taxing of gas emissions, reducing government support for fossil fuels, and increasing investment in renewable energy sources and infrastructure. Participants in roundtables said they would like to see improvements in the regulation of clean technology, investments in training for entrepreneurs, and resource development. The possibility of providing subsidies or incentives and using energy-efficient technology in homes and businesses was also raised.

A number of submissions mentioned development and investment in renewable energy, while others supported the funding and implementation of pipelines. Both of these recommendations, in addition to others, cited the benefits to economic growth, trade and the creation of jobs.

Participants using social media indicated that Canada needed to show greater leadership with regard to green energy. A number of participants asked the government to reinstate the ecoENERGY home energy retrofit program and to provide further green energy incentives.

Many of the in-person roundtable sessions conducted by the Minister of Finance and the Parliamentary Secretary generated comments and suggestions on engaging Indigenous communities in a more meaningful way, particularly with respect to education, training and employment.

Common themes across submissions included the need to improve on-reserve infrastructure and housing, as well as the need to improve access to health care, education and employment opportunities. Some input received also included suggestions to implement social programs to combat Indigenous homelessness, substance abuse, and physical abuse on and off reserves.

Furthermore, suggestions included recommendations to invest in infrastructure (for example, improving roads, housing, and water and sewer systems) for remote regions to improve quality of life in Indigenous communities, as well as a means to unlock resource development. Support for improving the infrastructure and, in particular, water quality in Indigenous communities, was also reinforced through social media, such as Facebook Live and Twitter.

Many submissions highlighted the value of education and included suggestions to both improve access to post-secondary education, and make it more affordable. In particular, suggestions for increased training were often associated with employment opportunities. Submissions and comments through social media channels suggested that specific training opportunities and initiatives would help support individuals and businesses to adapt to changes in the economy, technology and society. Discussion on the needs of young Canadians involved a number of topics, including employment, education and training.

Participants mentioned the need to support entrepreneurship and innovation programs to build Canadian talent and address labour force issues. It was also mentioned that current post-secondary education programs do not always align with the needs of the labour market. Participants also mentioned that it would be a good idea to provide funding for literacy programs, especially for new Canadians and Indigenous people.

Participants using social media often stressed that youth issues, such as opportunities for employment and student debt, should be a priority for the government. Another often-mentioned topic by participants using social media was the need for affordable child care.

A number of submissions mentioned specific measures to address poverty in Canada, in particular, youth in northern communities. Some submissions raised improving funding and access to social housing, as well as recommending further consideration of a guaranteed minimum income.

Many submissions referred to the desire to create well-paying and stable jobs. There was wide variety in the scope and focus of suggestions. These included tax incentives to increase employment, reduced employment-related business costs, and providing improved access to support for those who find themselves unemployed or underemployed. Individuals also expressed the need to recognize the professional certifications of immigrants.

Themes discussed at the roundtables included the need to develop programs to retrain and re-educate middle class individuals and vulnerable Canadians. Participants using social media also raised issues of poverty, such as housing, as an item for the government to prioritize.

Furthermore, participants using social media asked the government to help vulnerable Canadians, including those with low incomes, seniors, the homeless and people with disabilities. It was also mentioned that the government should provide more affordable options for Canadians with regard to housing.

A number of submissions supported the development of improvements to the Canada Pension Plan and called for improvements to the tax treatment for other retirement savings. Other submissions related to services and retirement, including recommendations on the age of retirement, poverty, housing, and continued work with the provinces and territories on pension reforms. Written submissions and in-person roundtables were the primary sources of recommendations for issues related to reforming the tax and investment regime, creating opportunities for employment, addressing issues regarding reducing poverty, and improving housing affordability for seniors.

Participants at the roundtables mentioned the need for additional support for seniors in the form of home care infrastructure, home care funding and palliative care support. Furthermore, they highlighted the importance of supporting the aging population in the workforce. Participants using social media also included seniors’ issues, such as housing and health care access, as items for the government to prioritize.

A large number of submissions mentioned the high-tech and innovation sectors. These submissions usually included suggestions to increase funding for research and development, and to support funding for the commercialization of products. Reducing regulatory red tape and supporting access to venture capital were consistently mentioned with respect to entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Some submissions contained recommendations for specific local and national measures to get small businesses off the ground and to grow into larger businesses.

In-person meetings and submissions that mentioned trade frequently included references to creating and improving trading relationships with other countries and supporting sector-specific issues at international forums (for example, manufacturing, high-tech, softwood lumber and supply-managed industries). Individuals also highlighted the importance of improving and finalizing the Agreement on Internal Trade, which would strengthen Canada’s internal market.

Stakeholders, particularly through social media, argued the importance of finding innovative ways to ensure that investors stay in Canada. These stakeholders also understood the importance of innovation resulting in effective commercialization. In addition, common themes of these discussions included supporting entrepreneurship and innovation programs, building Canadian talent, encouraging Canada to “go global,” attract talent and address labour force issues. In addition, individuals expressed the need to attract foreign workers to Canada.

A number of individual submissions recommended the funding of community-focused initiatives (for example, community centres, parks, youth programs and recent immigrants). Some submissions suggested projects and issues that require the cooperation of all levels of government, including recommendations to restore funding for discontinued programs or to create new national programs to support improvements to health care. Participants using social media also asked for the government to follow through with its election promise to help veterans.

There were a number of references to health care in the emails sent to the pre-budget consultations account and through the online survey. Common requests at the roundtables included establishing better partnerships, improved working relationships, increased communication, and less duplication between the provincial and federal governments. It also included the suggestion to increase the availability and affordability of child care services, as well as increasing financial support for the administration of non-government organizations and volunteer and community groups whose mandate is to help the most vulnerable.

The following sections describe in more detail the level and scope of engagement through the individual channels used.

Canadians were invited to complete a survey on Finance Canada’s website. Over 5,0003 Canadians responded to the online survey with advice and recommendations. Four questions were drafted to encourage open-ended feedback (see the Appendix).

The online consultation also included a fifth question that comprised a ranking tool asking Canadians to prioritize 10 areas where the government should invest to help grow the economy. The results of the prioritization exercise placed economic growth, health care and infrastructure as the top three priorities. These were followed by child poverty, middle class families, taxes, and young Canadians. Green communities, international and domestic trade, and retirement rounded out the 10 options.

Thinking of the issues facing Canada today, which one would you say the Government of Canada should focus on most? Please use a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is the main priority and 10 is the least important priority.

Answer Options Weighted average
Economic growth 6.7
Health care 6.6
Infrastructure 6.5
Child poverty 5.8
Middle Class Families 5.5
Young Canadians 5.3
Taxes 5.3
Green communities 4.9
Trade / Canada and the World 4.6
Retirement 4.4

Social media was used to a greater extent than in previous federal pre-budget consultations. The majority of direct social media engagement was through participation in Google Hangouts, Facebook Live events, and through Twitter. Engagement through social media resulted in a broad range of unfiltered input on issues of interest to Canadians. Tens of thousands of Canadians tuned in live to ask questions and to hear the Minister’s responses. This type of engagement also resulted in independently organized events and campaigns that sought to dig deeper into issues in particular sectors.

Bill Morneau tweets: A fantastic dialogue today w/ #entrepreneurs sharing ideas their #PBC16 ideas. Thank you @Startup_Canada for hosting a great #StartupChats!

Canadians were also invited to submit their ideas through traditional channels, such as regular mail and the pre-budget consultation email account. From January 6 to February 23, 2016, the Department of Finance Canada received over 12,000 submissions and messages.

The Minister of Finance and Parliamentary Secretary conducted cross-Canada tours to hear from community and industry sector experts directly. Over the course of 11 days, they travelled to 14 cities across Canada, conducted over 20 roundtables, events and chats, meeting with over 1,500 Canadians in person.

The Minister of Finance and Parliamentary Secretary held a final pre-budget town hall meeting at the Richelieu-Vanier Community Centre in Ottawa on February 22, 2016.

Members of Parliament from across Canada also held pre-budget consultations within their communities in an effort to engage Canadians in the lead-up to Budget 2016. By the end of the consultation period, the Department of Finance Canada received over 205 submissions from 89 members of Parliament across Canada, which included reports on events they organized in their ridings and input they received directly from their communities.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance held intensive hearings to obtain information directly from stakeholders to aid its deliberations on the upcoming federal budget. The result of the committee’s work can be found on the website of the Standing Committee on Finance.

The Minister of Finance appeared before the committee on February 23, 2016 to answer questions about Canada’s economic forecast and the government’s new direction to transform the economy so that it better supports the middle class. He also spoke at length about what he heard during the pre-budget consultations and how the priorities identified were being considered for inclusion in the federal budget and in future initiatives.

The Minister of Finance will table Budget 2016 in the House of Commons on March 22, 2016. Budget 2016 will reflect Canadians’ desire to push forward with our plan to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, and help our most vulnerable.

Canadians were invited to complete an online survey hosted on the Department of Finance Canada website. The following questions were also used to guide discussions at roundtable events and to collect feedback:

  1. In your opinion, how can we better support our middle class?
  2. What infrastructure needs can best help grow the economy, protect our environment and meet your priorities locally?
  3. How can we create economic growth, protect the environment and meet local priorities while ensuring that the most vulnerable don’t get left behind?
  4. Finally, is the implementation of these new priorities and initiatives realistic? Will it help us grow our economy?

Related links

1 Over 9,000 submissions were the result of an online write-in campaign sponsored by one stakeholder.

2 Qualitative analysis found in this section provides a high-level overview of issues raised across the various channels. Many of the submissions and comments contained multiple issues. For example, clean-technology, green energy, innovation, infrastructure and tax credits were often grouped together in the same submission. Individual and geographic information was not collected, as the intention was to capture Canada-wide themes.

3 There were 5,267 recorded surveys (4,869 in English and 398 in French).

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