Canada’s 2014 federal budget promises funding to provide or improve high speed internet access to Canadians in rural and remote areas.
The $305 million in funding over five years will extend high-speed broadband to about 280,000 households and businesses in areas of Canada that are underserved. It is being sold as part of the government’s Economic Action Plan to promote better connection and economic growth in small communities, particularly those in the Far North.
It is essentially a rebranding of the Broadband Canada Program, a three-year, $225-million investment to bring faster internet to underserved areas that ended in 2012.
The investment won praise from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
"The money allocated to bringing internet access to more Canadians is a positive step forward for northern businesses," it said in a release.
The 2012 budget also ended funding for the Community Access Program, which brought public internet access to rural communities, after an evaluation found "it may have outlived its usefulness as a means to bring the internet to communities across Canada."
A lack of sufficient access in some communities has contributed to a digital divide that can exacerbate inequities between rural and urban, poor and rich, and aboriginal and non-Native Canadians.
While eight out of ten Canadian households are connected to the internet, there are still communities from coast to coast to coast that have limited internet accessibility yet are expected to complete an increasing number of everyday tasks online.
The federal government declared in a 2001 report its commitment to making broadband access available to all communities in Canada by 2004. A decade later, 15 per cent of rural communities still lack access to broadband.
The government has tried to push carriers to connect more of Canada to broadband, and recently warned the big carriers that if they don’t stop hoarding the wireless spectrum that could bring high-speed internet to rural areas, they’ll lose it.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget predicts a deficit of $2.9 billion for the fiscal year. But Ottawa technically balanced the books when you take into account its $3 billion contingency fund. Flaherty said he didn’t want to push too aggressively, wanting a “nice clean surplus” next year.
Canada-U.S. Price Gap
The federal government says it will crack down on companies that charge consumers more for their products in Canada than in the U.S. Using a fictitious example, Flaherty said if Walmart charged Canadians more for Cheerios than it did Americans, and didn't have an explanation, like higher trucking costs, then they should be punished. (It's not clear how they are going to do this but they plan on giving the Competition Bureau more tools to do this and more details will be announced in the coming months).
'Made In Canada'
The federal government plans to develop a 'Made in Canada' branding program, work to establish more low-cost bank accounts and increase transparency on credit card merchant fees.
Public Service Cuts
The lion's share of spending cuts -- $1.5 billion -- will be targeted at the public service. The tories aim to cut $7.4 billion over the next six years from the public service compensation budget. Ottawa will drop its contributions to retired public servant health care plans from 75 per cent to 50 per cent.
Immigration Investor Program Scrapped
The federal government is scrapping the investor immigration program that allowed immigratns to "buy" their way into Canada with investment into the local economy. It was unclear initially whether the provincial investor programs will also be scrapped.
Credit Card Bills
The feds say they will ban banks from charging customers money to receive their credit card bills in the mail. Ottawa says it might do the same for wireless companies too.
Auto Industry Support
Ottawa said it will spend an additional $500 million for the Automotive Innovation Fund, essentially to bail out Chrysler, while announcing it is selling its stocks in GM, which it received when it bailed out the company in 2009.
Tobacco Prices Going Up
Ottawa plans to raise the cost of cigarettes by more than $4 on a carton of smokes. The cigarette tax would bring $685 million in new money next year.
The Conservatives are pressing ahead with the controversial Canada Job Grant program. The program covers up to $15,000 for training. When it was announced in Budget 2013, Ottawa said it would be funded in three ways split equally between the federal government, the province and the employer. But Ottawa hasn't been able to get an agreement with the provinces who are upset the federal government plans cut millions from their training budget and direct that cash towards this program.
Ottawa plans to create more than $100 million interest free loans through the Canada Apprentice Loan program, an expansion of the Canada Student Loans Program. It will also review the Youth Employment Strategy to provide real-life work experience in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and skills trade. The federal government says it will also dedicate more money towards internships. The budget includes a new Canada Apprentice Loan program, offering $4,000 interest free loans to students.
Ottawa will invest $305 million over five years to extend high-speed broadband to some 280,000 homes.
Tuesday's federal budget pushed $3.1 billion in planned capital spending off into the distant future, making badly needed new equipment on the Canadian military's shopping list little more than a wish list over the next three years. - CP
New Windsor-Detroit Bridge
Ottawa is giving a boost to southwestern Ontario's battered manufacturing sector with more than $1 billion in spending over the next two years to help the auto industry and build a new bridge to the U.S. at Windsor, Ont. The federal budget Tuesday called for spending $631 million over the next two years to help build a new Detroit-Windsor crossing. -CP