Friday, June 14, 2024

Ottawa brags about putting up $1.7 million to create 10 pasta jobs

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That’s $170,000 per pasta job

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The Trudeau government boasted this week about putting up $1.7 million to create 10 jobs in a pasta factory.

In a Tuesday statement, cabinet minister Filomena Tassi said the federal government would be handing over a $1.7 million no-interest loan to Italpasta Limited in Brampton, Ont.

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“This will help the Italpasta team increase production to keep up with growing demand!” Tassi announced in a social media post.

The money was to replace “old equipment,” which Tassi’s office said would reduce energy consumption and “create 10 skilled jobs.”

Italpasta is essentially having taxpayers front the money for redesigning part of their production line.

“Why can’t Italpasta get a credit line like the rest of us? Who is their lobbyists?” was the social media reaction of Roman Baber, Conservative candidate in the nearby riding of York Centre.

“If profitable Canadian businesses can’t invest in their own business without government ‘assistance’ we are in way worse shape in Canada than we thought,” read a reply by Conservative MP Kyle Seeback.

But these kinds of payouts are basically what Tassi does most days.

She’s minister of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), an agency tasked with funding “strategic investments that advance government priorities.” In the 2022 fiscal year, FedDev Ontario spent $600 million, although its budget typically hovers between $200 million and $300 million.

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As Tassi’s 2021 mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put it, she was to distribute her agency’s funding to businesses that hired “traditionally under-represented groups” and sought the “adoption of clean technologies.”

According to FedDev Ontario’s funding guidelines, they’ll put up between $125,000 and $10 million in “repayable contribution funding” for projects that meet their standards. FedDev Ontario money is only supposed to cover 50 per cent of a project’s cost, and the agency says it gives priority “to projects that maximize funding from other sources.”

“Should your project be approved, repayment will normally begin 1 year after the completion of the project,” states FedDev Ontario in a primer.

But the fiscally conservative Fraser Institute, for one, has called FedDev Ontario a “corporate welfare slush fund,” naming it as one of an archipelago of federal corporate welfare agencies.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation — another fiscally conservative think tank — regularly places FedDev Ontario on its annual list of agencies to defund in order to restore a balanced budget. “The CTF assumes that ending FedDev Ontario would save taxpayers $267.8 million annually,” it wrote in a 2022 list.

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And FedDev Ontario is just one of seven “regional development agencies.” The CTF puts their combined annual cost at $1.3 billion annually — roughly the annual cost of the CBC.

FedDev Ontario is a Conservative invention, however. It was founded by the government of Stephen Harper in 2009 to distribute stimulus funding in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn.

Since the Italpasta grant will only create an estimated 10 jobs, that’s about $170,000 in federal funding per job.

To put that in context, the Canadian economy added 90,000 jobs in April, according to Statistics Canada. If each of those jobs had collected an equivalent subsidy to that just paid out to Italpasta, the combined cost would have been $15.3 billion.

But $170,000 per job is a bargain compared to some of the other per-job rates obtained by Trudeau government subsidies in recent years.

This time last year, the federal and Ontario governments promised $13 billion in production subsidies to Volkswagen if the automaker built an EV plant employing an estimated 3,000 people. The $13 billion doesn’t get repaid; it’s mostly tax credits. If the figures hold, that’s $4.3 million per job.

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Housing starts down
It’s now been one month since the Trudeau government announced plans to somehow build two million extra houses in seven years (or, an extra house every two minutes for the rest of the decade). The above chart shows how the plan is going thus far: Housing starts are down. If this trend keeps up (and the projections are that they will), Canada won’t even be able to stick to its usual rate of homebuilding — much less double it as per the Trudeau plan. Photo by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Even given B.C.’s penchant for weird politics, the last few months have been an utter roller-coaster for its conservative flank. Just a few years ago, the B.C. Conservative Party was a relatively fringe organization that was basically the provincial equivalent of the People’s Party of Canada. But the B.C. Conservatives are now polling as the chief rival to the incumbent NDP — and are potentially within range of winning the October election. This has all come at the expense of B.C.’s usual right-wing option, B.C. United (formerly the B.C. Liberals). This week, it prompted brief speculation that the two parties would merge, similar to the Wildrose/Progressive Conservative merger in Alberta that yielded the incumbent United Conservative Party. But then B.C. United Leader Kevin Falcon blew all of this up forever by saying on Thursday, “I can’t merge with a party that has candidates that equate vaccines to Nazism or vaccines that create magnetism.” B.C. Conservative Leader John Rustad, meanwhile, said in a since-deleted social post that his attempt to extend the olive branch to B.C. United was met with a “f—k off” (although, unlike us, Rustad spelled the f-word out in full).

Baba Brinkman
This is rapper “Baba Brinkman” — son of Liberal MP Joyce Murray — performing at the $1.3 million Canada pavilion established at COP28, the most recent UN climate conference in Dubai. The pavilion (and possibly Brinkman’s performance) are some of the reasons that it cost Canada more than $3 million to send a delegation. Transportation alone ran to $825,466, while accommodation came to $472,570. Photo by Screenshot via YouTube/Event Rap

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