Ontario’s Budget from an environment and cleantech industry perspective

Ontario has traditionally been Canada’s leader not only in manufacturing but also in environment and clean technology. The recent Federal Budget contained little in the way of funding or policy initiatives directed specifically towards Canada’s environment industry sector but, in a detailed review, we were able to find a significant number of budget initiatives that would help support the environment industry sector. The Ontario budget is equally sparse when it comes to new environmental funding and policy initiatives. Compared to the federal budget it contains fewer initiatives that will provide stimulus to the environment and cleantech industry sectors. Nevertheless, Ontario’s environment industry might do well to take note of some Ontario Budget initiatives:

  • more than $35 billion over the next three years in infrastructure investments focused on the most critical areas such as transportation, health care and education to support more than 100,000 jobs on average each year across the province
  •  the Province will parallel the 2013 federal budget proposal to extend to the end of 2015 the accelerated Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) for manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment. The accelerated CCA shortens to three years the period over which the cost of new machinery and equipment can be deducted for tax purposes.
  • $100 million for small and rural municipalities for a new, dedicated fund for municipal roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. The Ministry of Rural Affairs and the Ministries of Transportation and Infrastructure will consult in the summer of 2013 on the design of the program and make funds available by October 1, 2013. This fund would be in addition to the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative, for which proposals were received by the Province in April 2013.
  • $13.5 million over three years to protect the quality and quantity of drinking water supply sources for the people of Ontario, working in partnership with small municipalities.
  • the Province is working with the federal government to put in place a new venture capital fund of up to $300 million in partnership with the private sector. This new Ontario-based fund would help strengthen Ontario’s venture capital industry, and help fund potential high-growth firms in the province.
  • working with business to expand market access for goods and services beyond Ontario’s borders to other provinces, the United States and emerging economies.
  • an increase in the Employer Health Tax exemption from $400,000 to $450,000 of payroll, beginning in 2014. The government also proposes to better target the exemption by eliminating it for private-sector employers with annual payrolls over $5 million.
  • Ontario will launch a certification program that pre‐qualifies potential investment sites as development ready to make them more attractive to foreign direct investment and domestic expansion projects. A pre‐qualified site will meet province‐wide requirements regarding utilities servicing, transportation and access, and related due diligence. The program will not only position communities to attract jobs and investment, it will also help to streamline the regulatory and administrative requirements placed on businesses
  • $10 million over two years to provide exceptional post-doctoral fellows with skills and experience to lead and manage industrial research, development and commercialization efforts, resulting in rapid commercialization of research and a boost to economic activity.
  • a Youth Employment Fund of $195 million over two years to create employment opportunities for 25,000 youth in Ontario. The province would provide hiring incentives to employers to offer young people in all regions of the province an entry point to long-term employment. Youth who participate in the program would learn life and work skills while earning income. It would also help employers better tap the youth talent available in the province.
  • the government is working with industry and First Nation communities to explore and develop mineral extraction opportunities in the Ring of Fire area in an environmentally sustainable way.
  • the Ontario government intends to extend for three years the Northern Industrial Electricity Rate (NIER) Program, which assists Northern Ontario’s largest industrial electricity users to reduce energy costs.
  • the Province is replacing coal-fired generation, and moving forward the closure date for Lambton and Nanticoke stations to the end of 2013. Ontario’s elimination of coal-fired electricity generation is the single largest greenhouse-gas reduction measure being undertaken in North America in this time frame.
  • as new investments in renewable generation unfold, the government will seek the involvement of communities to inform the process and ensure projects are successfully integrated in these areas
  • Ontario Power Generation’s supply chain operations could achieve greater savings through strategic sourcing of products and services. Hydro One could reduce costs in grid operations by improving the productivity in station maintenance. Hydro One could reduce capital costs through increased use of engineering, procurement, and construction suppliers.
  • Total infrastructure investments in 2012-2013 in the water-environment area were $256 million (interim).  Comparable total investments in 2013-2014 are budgeted at $149 million.
  • Ministry of the Environment spending was $529 million in 2011-2012, the interim figure for 2012-2013 is $486.0 million, and the budget for 2013-2014 is $495.2 million.
  • in the section of the Budget on Federal-Provincial relations the Ontario Government states “the federal government continues to provide significant support for energy sectors other than renewables, which does not meet the needs of Ontario. Enhanced federal support for clean energy would help Ontario transition to a low‐carbon economy. Ontario is seeking federal support and the appropriate regulatory environment for an east‐west transmission grid that would transmit electricity across provincial borders. Greater regional integration of electricity grids would encourage the development of new, larger‐scale renewable projects that would benefit the economy, both in Ontario and elsewhere in the country.
  • in 2002, biodiesel was made exempt from the 14.3 cent per litre fuel tax under the Fuel Tax Act to encourage its use in Ontario. The federal government’s renewable‐content requirements in respect of diesel fuel came into effect on July 1, 2011. As a result, Ontario’s fuel tax exemption for biodiesel no longer serves its purpose and will be repealed.
  • Ontario will consult with stakeholders on a provincial mandate for greener diesel fuels, including discussions related to the amount of renewable fuel content as well as greenhouse gas requirements.

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