Friday, March 14, 2008

A summary of the Federal Budget

The 2008 federal budget came and went by like many federal budgets. As always, these are times lobbyists are keen to pay attention to the finer details of what was mentioned and often, what was not mentioned. Budgets set the policy direction for a government and its list of priorities. For a government relations consultant to be effective, I believe they need to advise their clients and watch out for the following elements:

1. Most obviously, was my client's issue addressed? Was it left out and were their "opponent's" views considered? Either way, this is a time for both client and consultant to review the situation, decide on next steps, and communicate your message to your publics, stakeholders, and to the media.

2. Prior to the launch of the budget, there's a carefully developed checklist needed. Did your counsel suggest and prepare presentations before committee? Did you seek out any champions for your cause amongst MPs and Senators? Don't forget the gatekeepers! Executive, Legislative and Administrative Assistants will ease your entry into legislative offices, so treat them well.

3. How well researched was your point and could it have fit in with the government's agenda? GR Consultants offer the value of not just bridge building but also researching how your point can have the most success potential and be communicated in government policy lingo that politicians will understand.

While the full context of the budget can be found out at www.budget.gc.ca, some of the hot topic subjects of the day that I find my clients and subscribers to Corridors follow were addressed:

1. Environment: Always a hot issue over the last 2 years, the Conservatives launched an ecoAction plan. A key element of the plan is the regulatory framework for industrial air emissions, which will impose binding national regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants across all major industrial sectors. The ecoACTION plan also includes a mandatory fuel-efficiency standard for new cars and light trucks for the 2011 model year and standards and regulations for other forms of transportation, renewable fuels, and the energy efficiency of consumer and commercial products.

2. Infrastructure: Those in the construction industry or following municipalities, were also considered with the development of an Advantage Canada program. Investments in infrastructure were announced to reduce road congestion and travel times and ensure efficient movement of goods to market. Quality infrastructure, such as reliable water systems and public transit were also announced.

3. International assistance: Canada committed to double international assistance by 2010–11 from 2001–02 levels. Budget 2008 delivered on this promise. It ensures that the funding is in place to bring Canada’s total international assistance to $5 billion by 2010–11.

4. Tax-free savings accounts (T-FSAs): Probably one of the most fundamental changes in the tax scheme from this recent budget was the introduction of T-FSAs. The accounts will be a flexible savings vehicle that allows Canadians to contribute up to $5,000 a year to the account. Investment income, including capital gains, earned within the account will not be taxed and withdrawals will be tax-free.

5. Sport investment: On the sport front, my clients in the Canadian Paralympic Committee were happy to learn Budget 2008 provides funding of $24 million over the next two years and $24 million per year ongoing to support the Road to Excellence. Still short of the needed $30 million, the funding will nonetheless enhance the Government’s excellence programming for summer athletes, increasing the number of coaches, training camps and opportunities for our athletes to compete internationally.
Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & government relations consultancy. He brings a number of years of understanding of working with various government agencies and policy makers. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.

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