The Four Canada-wide Heritage Organizations Respond to Federal Budget 2023

In a federal budget appropriately focused on advancing Reconciliation, supporting Indigenous governance and capacity building, making life more affordable for the middle class, and creating a clean economy, there is an unfortunate lack of recognition of the role heritage places and existing buildings play in creating housing and supporting a green economy. The four Canada-wide heritage conservation NGOs – Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals, Indigenous Heritage Circle, ICOMOS Canada, and the National Trust for Canada– assess the 2023 budget against heritage sector recommendations in four areas:

Indigenous Heritage

The four Canada-wide heritage organizations acknowledge and commend the new budget for delivering sustainable funding for advancing Indigenous self-determination by providing $11.4 million over 3 years to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) to update the federal guidelines to fulfil the Crown’s duty to consult Indigenous peoples and accommodate impacts on their rights. An additional $22 million over 5 years has also been provided to coordinate activities to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. It is silent and falls short, however, on the heritage sector’s recommendation to strengthen the essential leadership capacity needed to advance cultural heritage priorities that are of importance to Métis, Inuit, and First Nations Peoples by providing an initial investment of $50 million over three years for the Indigenous Heritage Circle, an Indigenous-led national heritage organization.

Housing, Buildings and Green Retrofits  

While the Budget foregrounds the need for housing affordability, there is a missed opportunity – a disconnect, even – with essential action on climate and the imperative to use and re-use existing buildings. In a Budget that states the government’s intention to promote the ‘right to repair’ small devices and appliances, it is ironic that the same approach is not carried through with new measures for what may be our largest consumer good – existing housing.

In fact, there are powerful barriers to the re-use of existing and heritage buildings in Canada which if addressed, would increase Canada’s ability to provide affordable housing and move forward on decarbonization goals.  Unfortunately, the Budget does not include action to recognize the material value of older buildings by integrating LCA/embodied carbon calculation, does not correct biases in the federal tax system that promote needless demolition, resource extraction and new construction, and does not introduce incentives to attract investment to building reuse despite longstanding rehabilitation incentive recommendations from the heritage sector.

Skills Development and Training  

Building capacity for tradespeople working with existing and heritage building continues to be essential in both addressing our housing crisis and meeting Canada’s climate goals.  We welcome the Labour Mobility deduction of $595 million over six years for tradespeople because of its potential to prepare the construction sector to accelerate green rehabilitation and reuse of existing buildings as well as fostering the next generation of heritage workers.

Building re-use and maintenance plays a critical role in reducing the carbon impact of the construction industry, which is one of the biggest carbon emitters in Canada. With the budget’s current emphasis on new construction and developing skills in trades, it is important to remember that new and existing buildings will need maintenance, repair, and retrofitting in the future. To ensure that Canada is prepared to maintain its existing buildings, and to take care of the rapidly growing building stock in the future we would welcome greater specificity in the budget’s definitions of trade skills to recognize and appropriately allocate support to help develop specialized skills in the trades to appropriately adapt and maintain older and existing buildings.

Support to Culturally Significant Places  

We welcome steps that the federal government has taken for festivals ($14 million over 2 years to Building Communities through Arts and Heritage program) and tourism ($108 million over 3 years to Regional Development agencies for local events). We also see opportunities to recognize the heritage places of historically marginalized or under-represented groups through additional funding to the Canada Anti-Racism Strategy ($25.4 million over 5 years). However, there is no mention of National Historic Sites and other places of historical significance managed privately or by nonprofit organizations – despite a longstanding recommendation to set the funding level for the National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places to a minimum of $60 million over 5 years. These heritage places create a sense of belonging that builds social cohesion and plays an integral role in bringing diverse communities together, preserving and telling the stories of Canadians from all walks of life. Government investments in heritage places consistently leverage at least 5 times more in private investment, and in addition create new green jobs, enhance economic efficiency by renewing not replacing existing infrastructure, drive sector innovation, and better protect investments from the rising costs of carbon.

Heritage places offer governments ideal ways to create new green jobs, attract private investment, yield affordable housing and reflect the diversity of the country. We will continue to urge the federal government to recognize the value of existing buildings and culturally significant places in its policies and programs. We will also continue to urge the creation of a tax incentive for heritage rehabilitation – a proven measure that would help meet our country’s economic and climate goals. 

Read the heritage sector recommendations in the Pre-Budget Consultation submission here.

Natalie Bull

Executive Director
National Trust for Canada
Tel. 613-237-1066 x 222  

Kisha Supernant
Indigenous Heritage Circle

Mathieu Dormaels and Rebecca Jansen
ICOMOS Canada  

Andrew Waldron
Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals
Tel. 514-569-7455 


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