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Message from the president

The impact of the fall economic statement on universities

Campus and Community

By Dr. Vianne Timmons

On Nov. 3 Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered the federal government’s fall economic statement.

In particular, the following items are of note for the university sector:

  • Eliminating interest on federal student and apprentice loans permanently, estimated to cost $2.7 billion over five years and $556.3 million ongoing. This will require federal legislation.
  • $962.2 million over eight years, with $121.1 million ongoing to modernize National Research Council’s (NRC) scientific infrastructure to contribute to innovation.
  • The launch of the Canadian Innovation and Investment Agency and the Canada Growth Fund, which were announced in Budget 2022.
  • $1.6 billion over six years and $315 million ongoing to support the new immigration levels plan announced recently, along with $50 million for this fiscal year to help process backlogs and prioritize skilled newcomers.
  • $802.1 million over three years to support the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy.

Other major announcements in the update included the following:

  • $1.28 billion over six years and $55 million ongoing to the Impact Assessment Agency and other agencies to improve capacity to process applications and approve projects. This agency looks at environmental, economic, social and health impacts of potential projects.
  • An additional $1 billion in funding to provinces through Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements to respond to Hurricane Fiona in Atlantic Canada.
  • $250 million over five years for other skills-related programming, including the Sustainable Jobs Training Centre and a sustainable jobs stream under the Union Training and Innovation Program, along with $60 million over three years to create new supplements to federal, provincial and territorial skills programming.
  • A new tax credit for investment in clean technology.

While new funding for the NRC’s research infrastructure is an encouraging sign that government sees research as a value-added investment, it is disappointing that the government did not move forward to increase research spending at this time, and in particular did not address the needs of Canada’s graduate students. The spring budget will be monitored for this investment.

The fall economic statement recognized significant peer country investment in research, including in the U.S.’s Inflation Reduction Act.

As indicated in its media release, Universities Canada, which represents the majority of Canadian universities and of which Memorial is an active member, will be pressing the government to move beyond recognition to action on ensuring that Canada does not fall further behind.

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