Federal finance minister Bill Morneau was the guest of the Vancouver Board of Trade on April 27 and spoke to an audience of Vancouver business leaders about the Liberal government's plans for the Canadian economy.
Morneau began by saying the government sees Vancouver as a "gateway to the Pacific" and said with increased growth Vancouver and British Columbia will become even more economically important to Canada.
Morneau said during the Liberal election campaign the party built a platform based on asking Canadians their concerns, and that lower and middle class Canadians said they were increasingly challenged to move higher up the socioeconomic ladder. The environment was also a leading concern.
The budget reflected these inquiries, he said, starting with a tax decrease for the middle class pre-budget. Further pre-budget consultation included talking to 250,000 Canadians to gather additional information.
Morneau also stressed the importance of restoring good relations with First Nations communities. Addressing boil water advisories with $8.4 billion dollars over five years to address concerns such as poor drinking water and inferior educational opportunities. Morneau said $900 million will be earmarked for building educational infrastructure.
He also highlighted the newly established West Coast Energy Fund as a way for indigenous entrepreneurs to gain access to the oil and gas industry.
"We committed to $120 billion in infrastructure spending over the next ten years," Morneau said, adding that an emphasis will be put on green infrastructure and transit. $460 million in the transit fund will go to B.C. over the next three years, he said.
"We know that we need to deal with the fact that we have a real demographic challenge," Morneau said, and pointed to debt-relief for students and funding for research at universities to kickstart innovation.
In Vancouver, the government has committed to funding the Lion's Gate Wastewater Plant and will reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.
"We know that government investments can only get us so far," Morneau said, and stressed the government is committed to working with business to extend research and investment further.
"We have the best balance sheet of the G7 countries," he said, "which puts us in an enviable position."
But he added the country is facing an infrastructure deficit with low growth both domestically and internationally for the near future.
"We need to seize the moment." Morneau said, "and need take the time to make some decisions and make Canada even better for the future."
Investing for the long term is important for the country, Morneau said, and "we can only do it together."