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Federal budget offers few direct benefits to the trucking industry

OTTAWA, Ont. -- The trucking industry is not overjoyed about the recent federal budget announcement, and neither is...

OTTAWA, Ont. — The trucking industry is not overjoyed about the recent federal budget announcement, and neither is another related industry.

However, there may be some indirect, eventual benefits, such as $10 million for analysis on biofuel emissions. Yet, the B.C. trucking industry is doubtful there will be any immediate benefit in that regard.

“If there is, it is extremely modest,” says the president and CEO of the B.C. Trucking Association, Paul Landry.

The federal budget also announced improvements to the tune of $75 million at Canadian border crossings, specifically to “facilitate trade, travel and commerce,” according to the federal budget 2008 document, an efficiency plan that gains the approval from the BCTA.

“Anything that improves processing trucks at the border, is a good thing,” says Landry. “The border continues to be a problem, with our industry, part in light of a softening economy on both sides of the border,” adds the BCTA president, who notes that despite a “steady degradation of traffic,” related to economic woes, the US/Canada crossing continues to challenge the trucking industry. “For what traffic remains, it continues to be a problem.”

Ottawa is introducing a higher-security electronic passport by 2011, and doubling the validity period of Canadian passports to 10 years from five when this electric passport is launched. The budget is also providing $14 million over two years to expand the joint Canada-United States NEXUS program for low-risk frequent travellers across the border, and another $6 million over two years to introduce enhanced driver’s licenses. Whether these border improvements help the trucking industry, directly or indirectly, the funding is intended to ease up border congestion.

On security matters, a situation that also pertains to border issues, the federal government is injecting $29 million over two years to establish a permanent facility to enhance the security of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway region. It is also spending $29 million over two years to meet priorities under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) was launched in March of 2005 as a trilateral effort to increase security and enhance prosperity among the United States, Canada and Mexico through greater cooperation and information sharing.

While the federal budget was touted for reducing debt and taxes, with some support to forestry and manufacturing sector, a major conduit of the trucking industry is not impressed. The Canadian Manufacturing and Exporters (CM) is disappointed that more support wasn’t offered to a sector that is considered to be at a competitive disadvantage, due to recent economic constraints.

The CME asked the government to extend a two-year write-off for investments in manufacturing and processing equipment introduced in last year’s budget, to five years, to give companies time to make investment decisions, customize equipment, and meet regulatory approvals. Yet, this budget extends that two-year write-off, to one year, then provides two additional years of declining depreciation rates – which, according to the CME, erodes an effective tax measure intended to stimulate business investment in new productive technologies.

“Manufacturing is the grassroots leader of innovation in this country, but I am not sure politicians are hearing that message,” says CME President Jay Myers. “This budget worries me because it sends the message that a reduction in corporate tax rates is the silver bullet for the economy. That gets you in the game. But, it doesn’t give you many chips to play with, as other nations are encouraging investments in technology, innovation, and skills.

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduced his third budget on Tuesday, Feb. 26. For more information, or the Budget in Brief:

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