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Bulletin 32/05

Ottawa, July 26, 2005 – The date of the next federal budget is currently the subject of much speculation – as is the date of the next federal election with the possibility of Parliament being prorogued this fall, and the likelihood of a cabinet shuffle. According to a July 14 article in the Globe and Mail, Finance Minister Ralph Goodale is aiming for the usual budget window in February/March, but the department will be “ready for an earlier one if need be.”

Presently, the Finance Department is going out of its way to lower expectations, claiming that “the fiscal cupboard is bare” and that requests will have to be limited to fit these constraints. The department says that it is worried that “Canada has fallen 15 per cent behind the United States in terms of productivity per worker,” and that this year’s surplus “is only going to be about $400- million” (this despite the fact that they have consistently underestimated surpluses in the past).

It is in this context that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance announced, on July 7, the dates and cities for its 2005 pre-budget consultations. From September 26 to November 4, the committee will hear witnesses in Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Moncton, Montreal, and Toronto. For those who are interested, a detailed schedule of hearings is available.

Under the overarching theme of Enhancing Productivity Growth in Canada, the committee’s announcement highlights the statistical evidence for a positive relationship between national productivity and standard of living, and it goes on to assert that productivity is a major determinant of long-term economic growth.

These premises provide the committee’s rationale for focusing the pre-budget hearings on how to enhance Canadian productivity.

The committee is seeking new policy directions, and it therefore invites witnesses to share their views in areas such as taxation, program spending, smart regulation, and public/private partnerships. The committee has also prepared 12 questions for potential interveners under three Investments in Human Capital, and key headings: Investments in Entrepreneurial Capital, Investments in Physical Capital. The questions address the relative importance of various changes, their possible impact, the likelihood of policy trade-offs, and key challenges.

Individuals or organizations wishing to appear before the Committee should contact Richard Dupuis, clerk of the committee, no later than Friday, August 12th. Briefs must be less than ten pages and must include an executive summary of one page prioritizing the proposals and, when possible, providing their estimated fiscal cost. The deadline for submissions is September 6th. More information can be found on the committee website.

In preparation for the CCA’s pre-budget submission, we invite members to send their thoughts on key policy issues so that they can be reviewed and, if possible, incorporated into the CCA’s brief. If you are submitting a brief, please share it with us, and if you plan to appear before the committee, please let us know when. The CCA thanks you for your contributions because they will help us towards one of our primary goals – ensuring that artists can contribute freely and fully to Canadian society. This information will be reviewed by our policy staff, and it will help us to craft a powerful and coherent message that addresses the fiscal needs of the broad culture sector.

Finally, we would like to remind members of two important CCA documents that will be very helpful in preparing your brief. Both Government Spending on Culture in Canada and Useful Statistics are available, free of charge, on the CCA website. These documents offer a wealth of data that can be used to support whatever proposals you make in your pre-budget submissions.