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Federal budget missing opportunities to strengthen essential food, health, and consumer product manufacturing
Created on 9/6/2022 10:52:59 AM

Written by Michael Graydon, CEO of Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada
Published on April 20, 2022

Canada’s recently released federal budget is a key indicator of government’s priorities and support. The tried-and-true phrase rings more relevant than ever - the budget should show the federal government putting its money where its mouth is.

The budget takes some important steps to address key issues, including through support to the Canada Growth Fund and the Canadian Innovation and Investment Agency. The budget also includes important provisions for funding the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and implementing a Trusted Employer Model, positive steps toward addressing Canada’s chronic labour shortages.

However, the budget once again falls short on specific prioritization of our country’s essential food, health, and consumer product manufacturing sector. The availability and affordability of everyday essentials is more important than ever, with inflation preoccupying many Canadian families, yet the budget leaves the sector almost entirely unmentioned.

Manufacturing the grocery and drug store staples Canadians rely on often gets short shrift compared to other sectors, despite the fact that food, health, and consumer product manufacturing provides more Canadian jobs than any other manufacturing sector and plays an essential role in Canadians’ daily lives.

There should be no greater priority than ensuring Canadians can find the essential food, health, and consumer products they need at prices they can afford. Investing in strengthening essential supplies for Canadians is also an investment in Canadian workers, small businesses, and communities. Food, health, and consumer product manufacturing provides over 350,000 good jobs. 90% of FHCP members have fewer than 100 employees.

The diverse and inclusive food, health, and consumer product manufacturing sector is the backbone of the Canadian economy and a powerful potential engine for growth. Strengthening our essential domestic manufacturing and supply chains would benefit companies of all sizes, all along the value chain - from farmers to manufacturers to retailers, and more.

The essential nature of our sector has become only more clear after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, now followed by lingering supply chain disruptions, persistent consumer inflation, and the looming threat of food insecurity after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Government must not miss opportunities to prioritize food, health, and consumer product manufacturing, and all stakeholders in the value chain must come together to support innovation and choice for consumers.

The potential upside is significant. As it stands now, just 25% of companies in a 2019 FHCP poll said they were looking to expand production in Canada. Nearly 50% said they were considering expanding operations elsewhere. Canada’s uncompetitive costs of doing business, persistent and worsening labour gaps, and lack of incentives for the sector play a key role in these considerations.

Prioritizing action to address these constraints will make Canada a more attractive place for the investment and innovation that will deliver for Canadian families, communities, and our economy.