Federal Budget 2017: Minister of Finance Bill Morneau presents the budget in th House of Commons on March 22, 2017Click image to enlarge

Anyone looking for specific support for manufacturing in the 2017 Federal Government's Budget will be disappointed. Indeed, there is little mention of manufacturing.

In fact, as part of the measures outlined under the "Innovation and Skills Plan," the budget identifies "key growth industries" being clean technology, digital and agri-food.

The somewhat lackluster budget is more of a "read-between-the-lines" type budget in which you have to dig deep to discover what opportunities and support, if any, are being offered to help spur and sustain economic growth for Canada's manufacturing industry. Some of the initiatives do present opportunities for manufacturers.

For instance, as part of the Federal Government's initiatives for infrastructure, it plans to invest $10.1 billion over 10 years to "modernize Canada's transportation system." This may mean investments in new rails and railcars, trains, subways, road and bridge infrastructures, all of which have metal components and ancillary products that will have to be manufactured and assembled. Of course, the more skeptical budget reader will note that $10.1 billion over 11 years, doesn't amount to much, particularly when the government doesn't even have an 11-year mandate to implement such a plan.

The budget also outlines an $11.2 billion-plus investment in a national housing strategy to "build, renew and repair Canada's stock of affordable housing." Once again, there may be opportunities for manufacturers to secure contracts to produce products related to housing construction, such as metal HVAC-related products and piping.

The government's focus on clean technology is yet another area that presents opportunities for manufacturers to support companies involved in producing clean tech products. The budget outlines a potential investment of more than $2.2 billon to support clean technology research and development," as well as to accelerate the growth of clean technology companies." Many companies involved in the cleantech industry are not necessarily manufacturers, but idea generators who will be looking to have someone make their products.

Manufacturing is cited in the Federal Budget's "Skills and Innovation Plan." The government plans to invest up to $950 million over five years to support "superclusters that have the greatest potential to accelerate economic growth." And it cites "highly innovative industries" such as advanced manufacturing as one example.

How the government defines advanced manufacturing remains to be seen, but will likely include companies who are investing in automation, robotics and other digital manufacturing tools, or working in collaborative R&D partnerships with third party technology suppliers to pursue and implement leading edge technologies, initiatives that many manufacturers have already undertaken.

Mary Scianna, editor, Shop Metalworking Technology Magazine.

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