Corporate welfare debate comes to Sask as Scheer pans supercluster funding

The federal Conservatives are looking to cut at least $1.5 billion of what they call “corporate welfare handouts” if elected, but the Liberals warn that efforts to supercharge Saskatchewan’s plant-protein sector could be on the chopping block.Conservative leader Andrew Scheer announced Wednesday that a Conservative government would conduct a review of business subsidy programs with an aim of “eliminating grants for those who don’t need help.”“We get to the $1.5 billion by establishing the criteria that government programs in the future will not go to wealthy executives, to line the pockets of shareholders or for foreign companies,” Scheer said during a campaign stop in Hamilton, Ont.He said the money would instead be used to help less well-connected Canadians, presumably by paying for the billions of dollars in tax credits and tax cuts his party has been unveiling on the campaign trail.Scheer said his review would root out “programs that leave Canadians with no benefits.”Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.He listed examples of spending that, if cut, could help him arrive at that level of savings. He mentioned $950 million the Liberal government pledged to create five “innovation superclusters” across Canada, which Scheer criticized as “not evaluated for any type of performance criteria.”One supercluster is concentrated on the Prairies to promote the development of plant-based protein products, including meat substitutes.Ralph Goodale, minister of public safety and MP for Regina—Wascana, views the funding as a boon for Saskatchewan. On Wednesday, he attacked Scheer for treating it as a “frill” that can be thrown away.“I was shocked by it and really disappointed, because this is an initiative that a great many people in Saskatchewan have invested a lot of time and attention to bring about,” said Goodale. “Businesses, particularly in the agricultural sector, have been intensely involved.“It’s just ridiculous for Mr. Scheer to throw it in the garbage,” he added.Goodale said the supercluster is intended to make Saskatchewan and the Prairies a world leader in plant-protein innovation. He pointed to an estimate that it could create 4,500 “really good, solid new jobs” over 10 years and potentially add more than four per cent to provincial GDP.He said the $153-million federal commitment, to be matched by private money, is designed to “prime the pump” for innovation, partnerships and private investment.Scheer didn’t commit to ditching the funding, but mentioned it as an example in the context of his proposed review. A party release said the review would eliminate handouts “that don’t create growth and support economic growth in Canada.”A Conservative spokesman didn’t directly comment on whether the party considers the supercluster funding to benefit economic growth, rather than wealthy shareholders. The program has attracted criticism from some who question whether government seed money can stimulate “made-in-Canada Silicon Valleys.”But in Goodale’s view, framing the supercluster money as corporate welfare is “grossly distorted and wrong.”Joel Bruneau, head of the economics department at the University of Saskatchewan, said the supercluster program is not a “typical example of corporate welfare.” In his view, the term usually refers to benefits directed at particular companies or industries to enhance their competitiveness, rather than to investments in “public goods.”“The clusters strike me as something that’s a little bit in between, because you’re financing research… towards a public goal, where some of that innovation will then have major spillovers,” he said.Bruneau said it would be “false” to suggest the supercluster funding doesn’t generate public benefits beyond what accrues to private companies, which often don’t invest sufficiently in research and development.But he also questioned the government’s numbers for economic impact and job creation, which Goodale’s office said comes from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, the Conference Board of Canada and Avascent. Bruneau said the figures sound “really high.”Premier Scott Moe’s office did not directly criticize Scheer’s announcement when asked for comment, but recognized “the role that matching incentives such as those provided to the protein supercluster can play in attracting further investment, generating innovation, and creating jobs.”Moe’s press secretary, Jim Billington, said Saskatchewan will advocate for an approach that encourages precisely that while respecting taxpayer dollars.So far, only one company, Alberta-based oilseed processor Botaneco, has been awarded protein supercluster money. Applications for two initial funding instalments of $40 million and $60 million have been submitted, but the successful companies have not yet been announced.That means the vast majority of the funding pot could potentially be slashed, according to Goodale’s office.Applicants for federal money must be members of the supercluster itself, which includes AGT Foods and Ingredients, Maple Leaf Foods and Dow DuPont [email protected] read more

US stock market steadies itself after worst week since 2012

NEW YORK, N.Y. – U.S. stocks are stabilizing after their worst week in more than two years.The Dow Jones industrial average edged up one point to 16,546 in early trading Monday.The Standard & Poor’s 500 index also rose a point to 1,907. The Nasdaq composite rose seven points to 4,284.European stock markets also rose. China released trade figures Monday that showed a pickup in export growth and imports last month.U.S. stocks swung wildly last week and ended lower because of renewed fears of a slowdown in European economies. The S&P 500 fell 3.1 per cent, its worst weekly performance since a 4.3 per cent decline in May 2012.J.C. Penney rose 5 per cent Monday after it named a Home Depot executive as its next CEO. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email US stock market steadies itself after worst week since 2012 by The Associated Press Posted Oct 13, 2014 7:41 am MDT read more