Saturday, February 07, 2009

Budget 2009: How do Associations Adjust?

Federal budget 2009 came about in early February. Unlike many other previous budgets, I believe this budget came through on a central theme: the economy, the economy and more of the economy!

Pressured by the opposition parties to adopt a number of measures to address a slagging economy, the Conservatives introduced an economic stimulus package aimed largely at boosting a number of industry sectors. While this bodes well for a number of industry associations and charities, depending on the constituency they represent, there are going to be some who will have to work harder this year to get their point across. On that point, I will return in a moment. To start however, I'll touch on a few points where certain opportunity exists.

Budget 2009 accelerates and expands recent historic federal investments in infrastructure with almost $12 billion in new infrastructure stimulus funding over two years. Municipal green infrastructure is also a priority establishing amongst other opportunities, a two-year, $4-billion infrastructure Stimulus Fund that will provide funding to renew infrastructure. For those industry associations following environment and energy efficiency issues, the budget also provides $1 billion over five years for the Green Infrastructure Fund to support projects such as sustainable energy.

Environment: The budget sets out a new Clean Energy Fund that supports clean energy research development and demonstration projects, including carbon capture and storage.

Keen to stimulate more construction within the economy, the Conservatives are aiming a number of incentive programs to encourage Canadians to retrofit and renovate their homes. For some of my construction association clients, we'll be reviewing this as an indication that there's an openness towards hearing a message of the importance of the sector.

Skills training and encouraging business investment: As mentioned earlier, the budget took a decidedly economic stimulus tone. Much was mentioned on investments coming to encourage training programs and bonifying EI benefits. A lot was also mentioned in terms of encouraging further investments to release credit for businesses. If your association/ charity focuses on the unemployed or even in terms of working to support small businesses, I would say that this is a crucial time to build your links with government stakeholders.

For other notable sectors, it will be important to note a number of key example initiatives:

Forest industry associations will be interested by $170 million over two years to secure a more sustainable and competitive forest sector. Agricultural associations will be interested by a $500 million agricultural flexibility program that will help the sector adapt to pressures and improve its competitiveness. For arts related associations, a $20 million contribution over the next two years and $13 million per year thereafter will be coming to the National Arts Training Contribution Program.

For those who might not have been mentioned, do not fret!

My experience has been that while being overseen in a budget can be a set back, it nonetheless provides a chance to take a serious look at your approach to government. Consider the following checklist:

  • Is your argument based on fact, emotion or a solid combination of both?

  • Have you been effectively monitoring the tone of Ottawa over the course of the last year or more? If so, how does your cause fit within the political scene?

  • How will your argument help the government in reaching its objectives, not necessarily just yours?

  • There are ways of answering all of these questions. What's been your experience? I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment!
    Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca/Action_Strategies/Newsletter.html

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