Ottawa is trying to jump-start the jobs recovery with a new program that offsets a portion of employers’ labour costs. The Canada Recovery Hiring Program (CRHP) would run from June 6 to November 20 and cover as much as 50 percent of incremental pay to workers, whether through higher wages, more hours or new hires. The program is estimated to cost $595-million.
The labour market has mostly recovered from the pandemic. The number of employed Canadians is down by roughly 300,000, or 1.5 percent, from pre-pandemic levels. At this point, the damage is mostly confined to a handful of sectors – such as hospitality – that are curtailed by public-health measures. At the same time, employment has increased in many white-collar industries. Housing and Real Estate
Much like past budgets, the federal government has proposed a series of measures on housing, although they are unlikely to curb the robust activity and speculation of the past year.
Canada will impose a 1% tax on the value of real estate held by foreigners if the property is left vacant, beginning in 2022. It follows foreign buyers’ taxes in British Columbia and Ontario. The move is estimated to bring in $700-million in revenue over four years, starting in 2022-23.
The budget also proposes to send an extra $2.5-billion to the CMHC for various initiatives, including the construction of affordable housing units and plans to reallocate $1.3-billion for such things as the conversion of vacant offices into housing.
However, the budget was just as notable for what wasn’t there: new measures aimed directly at cooling the real estate market. Measures For The Elderly, The Green Economy, Reduced Tax Evasion, And Luxury Taxes on Yachts, Expensive Cars... If all goes well, and the pandemic is largely behind us by September, the government forecasts a marked drop in deficits and debt over the five-year planning horizon.
- As a share of the economy, the fiscal track is about where it was in November, with annual deficits averaging 5.8% of GDP over five years versus 5.7%.
- Bond issuance in 2021 will decline to C$286 billion, from C$374 billion in the previous fiscal year. The government wants to issue more than 40% of its bonds in maturities of 10-years or more, up from 15% pre-pandemic. That includes a re-opening of 50-year issues.
- The government pledged to reduce federal debt as a share of the economy over “the medium-term” in defining its new fiscal anchor.
- Canada plans to implement a digital services tax on tech giants at a rate of 3% of revenue. It would be effective Jan. 1, 2022, “until an acceptable multilateral approach comes into effect.” The tax is projected to raise C$3.4 billion in revenue over five years
Bottom Line There is no plan to balance the budget, but one area of focus ahead of the budget was whether Ottawa would commit to a specific fiscal anchor. And while a precise figure was not mentioned, the budget states: “The government is committed to unwinding COVID-related deficits and reducing the federal debt as a share of the economy over the medium-term.” With the proviso that the economy recovers roughly in line with consensus expectations and that borrowing costs don’t flare dramatically higher, this suggests that the anchor is a 50% debt/GDP ratio. For the deficit, this implies a reversion to pre-pandemic levels of around 1% of GDP (or about $30 billion later in the decade). In a sense, then, the pandemic has been “paid for” by a one-time level step-up in the debt/GDP ratio from 30% to 50%