Apprenticeship incentives, 'Made in Canada' campaign praised
The 2014 federal budget may be opening the Conservative government's first salvo on COOL policies in the United States.
COOL — which stands for Country of Origin Labelling — is a controversial American policy which has cost Canadian beef and pork producers an estimated $1 billion every year in exports and trade. The policy requires all beef and pork products to be handled separately from its American counterpart.
"Our Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz, has been very involved in some heavy-duty discussions with the United States on the whole COOL concept," said Ray Boughen, MP for Palliser. "(He) has done a good job carrying forward Canada's position on that."
Ritz has threatened reciprocation against the United States for COOL policies in the past, and Boughen said it was a "fair assessment" to interpret the "Made in Canada" program proposed by the 2014 budget is part of those reprisals.
The program, according to the budget documents, will put Canadian products front and centre through a branding and awareness campaign.
Also in the works in this budget is a new apprenticeship scholarship and a review of the Youth Employment Strategy that will put the focus on the skilled trades, Boughen said.
"Looking across Canada from coast-to-coast-to-coast, the need for skilled tradespeople is evident all over the place. We know about that in Saskatchewan in spades," he said. "(In the budget) there's money for apprenticeship programs … there's over $100 million in interest-free loans scheduled for this year."
Boughen also shone a light on the Canada Job Grant — a program announced in 2013's budget, but which the federal government failed to deliver because of a dispute with the provinces, who it was expecting to partner with.
"The Canada Job Grant is alive and well, and it's going to be in place," he said. "We're hoping the provinces will be part and parcel with it, but they have a choice — they don't have to be."
Boughen pointed to the $108 million over three years for veterans services that will provide funeral and burial services, and referenced continuing programs for veterans from the 2013 budget.
This year's budget also earmarks $2.1 million for streamlining online Veteran Affairs services in spite of criticisms that system has faced, and makes mention of a program that would give preference to veterans for job opportunities in public service.
However, the budget allocated no funds to mental health support for veterans, in spite of the rash of recent suicides that have been suggested as being connected to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Overall, Boughen said, "(Palliser) did okay" with the budget.
"You can always use more money," he added. "But for what we've been given, we aren't in bad shape."
The Times-Herald will follow up Tuesday's budget announcement with further coverage in coming days.