Finance minister tells Halifax business audience not to link budget to election

Finance minister tells Halifax business audience not to link budget to election

HALIFAX — Finance Minister Bill Morneau pitched the virtues of his latest budget as logical extension of his past documents in a speech Friday, telling a Halifax business audience they shouldn't think of it as an electoral platform.

Speaking before the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, Morneau said that if there was anything the government did in the budget that was a surprise then "you haven't been watching us for the last four years."

"For people who are looking towards that election they should assume that they will get more of what they decided to hire us for in 2015 — a focus on people, a focus on investing in our collective future."

Morneau also continued to make the case for more spending, saying now is "exactly the wrong time" to balance the budget quickly as the federal Tories believe.

He said to do so would bring higher unemployment and bigger economic problems.

Morneau said the Liberal government's goal is to spend while reducing the amount of debt as a result of a growing economy.

"We have the best balance sheet among G7 countries," he said. "We are less than half the debt as a function of our GDP than the average among other countries in the G7, and we've reduced that debt as a function of our economy every single year. And we are going to keep doing it." 

The budget tabled on Tuesday projected a deficit of $19.8 billion in 2019-20.

Morneau said the budget is part of meeting many of the economic and social challenges that are evident in countries such as France, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

He said Canada faces challenges similar to its allies around making sure the economy works for everyone, while the immigration system also works the way it is intended to.

"But we have a lot of good fortune in this country that means that we are in a better position than many other places," he said.

Still, Morneau said he worries about things such as high household debt and the challenge of dealing with the country's aging demographic.

"We need to make sure we have as many people as possible getting success from our economy," he said.

To that end, Morneau highlighted several budget measures including preparing students for the job market through so-called integrated learning initiatives.

"The better prepared people can be for those first jobs, the better off we're all going to be," he said.

 

The Canadian Press