Federal budget signals new attitudes and welcome reforms in Ottawa

Budget 2023-2024 offers a Canadian response to the Inflation Reduction Act alongside needed regulatory reforms for natural resource projects.

Federal finance minister Chrystia Freeland presents Canada’s 2023-2024 federal budget. Photo from the Hill Times.

The federal government’s 2023-2024 budget provides welcome action on clean technology and a promise to fix Canada’s broken regulatory system for natural resource projects, with a focus on mining and critical minerals.

Ottawa says it needs to boost clean-economy spending from some $15 billion a year to $100 billion to compete with subsidies in other countries, primarily the US$369 billion in the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). That’s a recognition Resource Works has advocated for in recent months, as the emerging clean-tech sector has expressed concerns about its future in Canada without comparable action from the federal government.

Considering the substantially larger size of the US economy, the federal government’s proposed clean-economy investments are remarkable.

Total tax incentives amount to almost $83 billion through to the 2035 fiscal year on everything from credits for carbon capture and storage (CCS) to clean-tech investment credits. Promised tax credits for investments in clean electricity, clean-tech manufacturing and hydrogen energy alone are expected to cost $55 billion through to the 2035 fiscal year.

Ottawa’s budget measures also included a 15-per-cent refundable tax credit for eligible investments in “non-emitting electricity generation systems: wind, concentrated solar, solar photovoltaic, hydro (including large-scale), wave, tidal, nuclear (including large-scale and small modular reactors).”

The inclusion of nuclear, both large-scale and small modular reactors (SMRs), is a significant positive development. As the province of Ontario has shown, nuclear can provide cheap, reliable and clean energy to Canadians and should be a pillar of net-zero goals.

New programs include the Clean Electricity Investment Tax Credit and the Clean Technology Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit. The programs are expected to cost $4.5 billion over five years, plus $6.6 billion more down the road through to 2035.

The budget also proposes $500 million over ten years to the federal Strategic Innovation Fund to support the development and application of clean technologies in Canada, in addition to directing up to $1.5 billion of its existing resources “towards projects in sectors including clean technologies, critical minerals, and industrial transformation.”

More specifically, it proposes providing $3 billion over 13 years to Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) to support transmission projects and offshore wind potential (particularly off the coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador) in addition to NRCAN funding for Indigenous-led projects.

With an eye on the spending, the Conference Board of Canada’s budget analysis deemed the budget to be “Clean and green but not very lean.” But among budget measures that caught our eye were promises to speed up review and permitting processes for natural-resource projects.

Regulatory reforms and impact assessments

Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith. The Haisla are proposing the world's first Indigenous-led LNG export facility. Photo from the Canadian Press.

Perhaps the other main challenge threatening responsible natural resource development in Canada, in addition to a more competitive investment environment in the US, is the suffocating burden of unnecessary regulation to which projects are subject.

The Fraser Institute’s Kenneth Green raises the history of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project (TMX) as a key case study.

“A relatively straightforward infrastructure project that was expected to take only two years to build,” he writes, “has taken more than ten years to near-completion and cost five times as much as when it was proposed, largely because of regulatory delay.”

Now, as BC’s LNG export industry is just getting off its feet, the federal government insisted on around 250 conditions before providing environmental approval to Cedar LNG, the first Indigenous-owned LNG export terminal in the world.

Despite drawing from the already approved Coastal GasLink pipeline, the already approved LNG Canada export facility – and dealing in natural gas, not oil – Cedar LNG was subject to more conditions than TMX was initially given.

In the end, TMX had to be purchased by the federal government because, after sinking billions of dollars into the project, the former proponent abandoned hopes of ever completing it under the suffocating atmosphere of red tape and political interference. Surely this is not the desired future for the world’s cleanest LNG industry developing in BC, nor a precedent favoured by any concerned about the success of the Canadian economy.

Fortunately, the federal government appears willing to make some of the changes so desperately needed.

“By the end of 2023, the government will outline a concrete plan to improve the efficiency of the impact assessment and permitting processes for major projects, which will include clarifying and reducing timelines, mitigating inefficiencies, and improving engagement and partnerships,” said finance minister Chrystia Freeland.

“Building Canada’s clean economy will require significant and sustained private sector investment in clean electricity, critical minerals and other major projects. Ensuring the timely completion of these projects is essential — it should not take 12 years to open a critical-minerals mine. As part of its clean growth strategy, the government is making it a priority to expedite major project reviews while maintaining strong regulatory standards.”

This is extraordinarily good news, coming from the federal government. Resource Works has historically been critical of the government’s Impact Assessment Act. The reforms signalled by Minister Freeland are to be applauded.

Recognizing the disharmony between electrification goals and the existing system of permitting new mines, the government earmarked $1.3 billion over six years “to continue to improve the efficiency of assessments for major projects” and another $10.6 million “to provide direct assistance to critical mineral developers in navigating regulatory processes and government support measures,” reads the budget.

Signalling another positive reform, the budget also promises the government “stands ready and willing to work with provinces and territories to deepen federal-provincial cooperation to reach the goal of ‘one project, one assessment.’”

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) said in a news release that it is “encouraged to see the federal government’s recognition of the need to streamline the regulatory process for major projects as well as additional details for the Investment Tax Credit for CCUS.”

Carbon capture

The federal government’s move to follow the US example of clean-tech support included tax credits for carbon-capture projects, a measure Resource Works has long advocated.

The tax credits will be made available to projects that would store CO2 using dedicated geological storage in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

“A full package of legislative proposals will be released for consultation in the coming months,” reads the budget. “Once legislated, the tax credit will be retroactively available to businesses that have incurred eligible CCUS expenses, starting in 2022.”

The Pathways Alliance, a group of six major oilsands producers, said it is encouraged that “Budget 2023 signals that more policy certainty is coming to support and incentivize needed investment in clean technologies, including carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) projects, that are critical to meeting Canada’s emissions reduction goals.”

Critical minerals

Beyond speeding the regulatory process for major new natural resource projects, including mining operations, the budget places special emphasis on support for what we hope will become an emerging critical minerals sector in Canada.

Canada is a global leader in mining, thanks in part to the industry's contributions in BC. With export access, proximity to a growing US electric manufacturing base, and preferential status as a stable and reliable ally, a Canadian critical minerals mining sector could become a major part of the western supply chain.

“However, to fully unleash Canada’s potential in critical minerals, we need to ensure a framework is in place to accelerate private investment,” reads the budget. “The new Investment Tax Credit for Clean Technology Manufacturing proposed in Budget 2023 will also provide a significant incentive to boost private investment in Canadian critical minerals projects.”

The tax credit will refund up to 30 percent of the cost of new machinery and equipment used in manufacturing and processing certain clean technologies or in processing, extracting or recycling critical minerals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, copper and rare earth minerals.

In addition, the government has set aside $10.6 million “to provide direct assistance to critical mineral developers in navigating regulatory processes and government support measures.” On the one hand, this is a welcomed acknowledgement that the federal regulatory process in mining is not having the desired outcome. On the other, perhaps these funds would be better spent simplifying the regulations in question themselves, removing the need for official assistance in navigating the government’s labyrinth of red tape.

Nonetheless, Pierre Gratton, head of the Mining Association of Canada, said in a commentary that “Budget 2023 bolsters the ability of Canada’s mining sector to deliver for Canada and for the planet… Without mining, there are no electric vehicles, no clean power from wind farms, solar panels or nuclear energy, and no transmission lines.”

That’s a sentiment we second.

The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada said in a news release that it is “encouraged to see the Government of Canada committing further support for the mineral industry in the 2023 Federal Budget by announcing a 30% clean-tech manufacturing tax credit that will boost the economics of mining of critical minerals in Canada.

“Worth more than $ 10 billion over ten years, the clean-tech manufacturing tax credit aims to offset the cost of equipment used for mining and processing critical minerals, and make building new mines in Canada more economically feasible.”


The budget also sets $368.4 million for forest sector programs over three years, starting in 2023-2024.

$3.1 million of those funds will remain in amortization to Natural Resources Canada for renewing and updating forestry supports, including research and development and Indigenous participation.

The Forest Products Association of Canada hailed the measures in a statement: “Today, the Finance Minister sent a clear message to Canadian forestry workers – that they are among the best in the world at what they do and are essential players in the lower carbon economy of tomorrow.”

It continues: “Today’s budget also delivered on the promise of forest biomass from Canada’s sustainably managed forests. In the face of worsening and more catastrophic fire patterns, today’s budget recognized that we need to do more to build new markets for stranded wood fibre and wood waste, realize the climate benefits of our biomass here at home, and help maximize carbon sinks in our forests.”

Indigenous peoples and natural resources

John Desjarlias, executive director of the Indigenous Resource Network. Photo from the Canadian Energy Centre.

The budget declared that “economic reconciliation is critical to Indigenous self-determination,” and that “systemic barriers must be removed and supports put in place for Indigenous communities to fully participate in the economy in line with their constitutionally protected rights.”

Among other things, Ottawa earmarked $8.7 million towards “deeper engagements with Indigenous partners, including Indigenous rights-holders, towards the development of a National Benefits-Sharing Framework. That would give communities access to more natural-resource dollars from projects on their territories.”

For those familiar with the Official Opposition’s announcement to consult on a historic Indigenous natural resource revenue sharing policy earlier this year, this budget item may signal growing cross-party support for important reforms to how Indigenous peoples benefit from projects on their lands.

The budget also promises $5 million to develop “an Economic Reconciliation Framework with Indigenous partners that will increase economic opportunities for Indigenous Peoples, communities, and businesses.” It’s a program Resource Works will be watching with interest.

Another new program, worth $35.3 million over three years, will be to develop a new First Nations-led National Land Registry “that will provide communities in First Nation Land Management with more opportunities to realize the economic benefits arising from local control over their lands.” It’s a promising concept and one in line with a growing recognition that First Nations can and should be industry leaders within their territories.

Alongside funding to assist a boom in Indigenous-led projects, the budget further promised to set aside funds to support growing Indigenous capacity for the possible regulation or management of those projects.

$30 million was announced over the next five years so that “First Nations can develop capacity to exercise increased responsibility over their lands, resources and environment.” Meanwhile, $19.4 million over five years will go to a Northern Participant Funding Program to increase the participation of Indigenous peoples, among others, in environmental and regulatory assessments of major projects. An additional $1.6 million over two years is dedicated to the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency for increasing capacity for “federal participation in environmental assessments and consultation with Indigenous communities on major projects in the territories.”

Rather than following the remarkably successful and innovative model of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation, the government promised to open the troubled Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to provide loans to Indigenous communities. Funding for the loans will come from the CIB’s existing budget to support Indigenous communities purchasing equity stakes in infrastructure projects in which the bank is also investing.

While opening the CIB to supporting loans for Indigenous communities that wish to purchase equity in major projects is a positive step, there is some disappointment as to the choice and design of the assistance.

Indigenous Resource Network (IRN) has been calling for a National Indigenous Guaranteed Loan Program and an Indigenous Infrastructure Bank to help Indigenous communities access capital to take ownership of resource projects.

“IRN will continue to advocate for a National Indigenous Guaranteed Loan program, so that Indigenous communities have the access to capital for engaging in equity deals with industry.”


Budget 2023-2024 presents what may be the most natural resource friendly federal budget since 2015. Equally welcome, it is also perhaps the most meaningful budget, in terms of climate action, that Canada has seen in some time – recognizing the diminishing return on punitive policies in favour of positive incentives to decarbonization.

The government’s stated goal to harmonize federal-provincial project assessments and reduce regulatory timelines for major projects is a momentous shift in the trajectory of the government. It deserves recognition alongside encouragement to continue on the path to unlocking the true value of Canada’s natural resource economy.

Similarly, considering that the US economy is more than twenty times the size of Canada’s, the government’s promised $100 billion a year in clean-economy supports and incentives (compared to the US Inflation Reduction Act’s $369 billion) is a remarkable endorsement that it will be technology, not taxes, that build a low-carbon future.

We hope the government meaningfully fulfils its promise to simplify and reduce the regulatory barriers that have long held back the opportunities for prosperity promised by responsible natural resource development. The extraordinary budgetary support for the development of Canada's clean-tech sectors, in addition to other growing expenses, will require a growing and vibrant economy. Natural resources have always been at the heart of Canada's economy and will continue to play an essential role in the transformation toward a greener future.

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