April 1, 2016
London, United Kingdom
Thomson Reuters Newsmakers Outreach Event
Speech by the Honourable Bill Morneau, P.C., M.P.
Check against delivery
Thank you and good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s a pleasure to be here in London where I spent some time in my younger years attending LSE.
And though there are countless stories I could tell you about that, on April Fool’s Day, no less—I’m here today to tell you Canada’s story.
You’ve no doubt heard Prime Minister Trudeau say that Canada is back. I am here to tell you that it’s true. And I can tell you that it’s been an incredible privilege to serve as Canada’s Finance Minister over these last few short and intense months.
This is truly an historic time for Canada. We are at a moment in our history where we have both the capacity and the willingness to act to ensure a better life for our children and grandchildren. Our government is seizing that moment. Canadians are with us. The international community is behind us, and we’re moving forward. Canada is, indeed, back. Let me tell you why.
More Support for Middle-Income Earners
Just over a week ago, I tabled our government’s first budget. Its main focus is on revitalizing our economy by improving conditions for the broad cross-section of Canadians we call the middle class—which I realize doesn’t quite translate this side of the pond.
You might think of them as everyday Canadians or middle-income earners—those who work longer, and harder, but feel they aren’t getting ahead.
Those squeezed by looking after their children and their aging parents. Families. Seniors. Students. Neighbours. These are the people our government is focused on supporting. Because we know that our country was built on the idea that all Canadians should have a real and fair chance at success.
We know families have been struggling. Canada has not been immune to the global economic slowdown.
The rapid decline in global crude oil prices has cast a shadow over Canada’s near-term prospects.
But looking even further back, we see that real median wages in Canada haven’t grown significantly since the ‘70s. And over the last ten years, we’ve seen weaker growth than we would have liked.
People across my country have told me, first-hand, that it feels harder to get ahead.
Affording a dignified retirement seems further from reach, and some worry the next generation will do worse than their own.
This is simply unacceptable.
I’m sure everyone in this room will agree that no nation can expect significant economic growth if this growth isn’t shared by those at the very core of the economy and of our society.
And with its first budget, our government broke free of an economic approach that wasn’t working, in favour of one that will bring long-term inclusive growth that all Canadians will benefit from.
Fortunately for Canada, we are well prepared to achieve this key objective.
Wise management of our nation’s finances back in the 1990s restored our country’s fiscal health, giving us a net debt-to-GDP level today that is by far the lowest of any G7 country.
At the same time, our interest rates have never been lower, so we can borrow on excellent terms—as governments are being urged to do by everyone from the IMF to the OECD to the G20.
Canada’s banks are sound and safe, our taxes are low, and we continue to pursue free and open trade with countries across the globe.
Canada is a trading nation.
Our prosperity is linked to economic opportunities beyond our borders. Our trade agreements seek to open new markets and strengthen existing ones.
The Government recently completed the final steps of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. We are committed to its swift ratification.
Our first budget makes the most of these strengths through investments in several key areas. Let me give you a few examples.
Investing in Infrastructure
What families need most is strong economic growth that creates good-paying jobs. That is why our budget calls for new investments in infrastructure throughout Canada.
New roads and bridges allow us to get around faster. Waste treatment plants, sewers and water mains keep water clean. The internet connects us digitally. Social housing delivers affordable homes.
These benefits are obvious. But sometimes it’s not as clear how infrastructure can strengthen the economy and create jobs.
Consider something as simple as traffic jams. Everyone knows they’re annoying. But they also slow the movement of people, goods and services. In short, they hurt the economy.
Investing in mass transit does much more than make life easier for our citizens. It boosts the economy—not just for today, but for years and even decades to come.
Accordingly, the first phase of our infrastructure plan invests $11.9 billion over five years.
We will use these funds to modernize and rehabilitate public transit, water and wastewater systems; provide affordable housing; and to protect infrastructure systems from the effects of climate change.
Looking further ahead, during the next decade, we will invest more than $120 billion in infrastructure.
Potential projects include making significant improvements to airports and border infrastructure, and helping bolster the trade corridors that keep Canada open to the U.K., to Europe and to the rest of the world.
Increasing Support for Innovation
In Budget 2016, the Government is also defining a new vision for Canada’s economy: to make our country a centre of global innovation.
Simply put, turning new ground-breaking ideas into high-value goods and services makes good economic sense. It generates more opportunities for Canadians and Canadian businesses, including economic diversification and increased trade.
To help businesses of all sizes, post-secondary institutions, governments and other innovation stakeholders work together more strategically, Budget 2016 makes available up to $800 million over four years to support innovation networks in Canada.
To support increased access to global markets and expertise to help innovative Canadian technology firms grow, Budget 2016 proposes to provide $4 million over two years, starting in 2016–17, to renew the Canadian Technology Accelerator Initiative.
This program supports information and communications technology, life sciences and clean technology firms by providing mentorship, introductions to potential clients and partners, and desk space in business accelerators abroad.
Managed by the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, the program is available here in the U.K. as well as in the United States, France and India.
And we’re not just talking about high-tech innovation. We are also committed to promoting Canadian cultural exports on the world stage.
Budget 2016 proposes to provide $35 million over two years to highlight Canadian artists and cultural industries through Canada’s foreign missions.
Furthermore, through 2016 and 2017, the Government will define a bold new plan, our Innovation Agenda, to help achieve the vision of Canada as a centre of global innovation.
Innovation and economic growth are essential in our struggle against global climate change.
Protecting the environment and growing the economy go hand in hand.
Just as the Department of Energy & Climate Change works to make sure the U.K. has secure, clean, affordable energy supplies, Budget 2016 firmly positions Canada as a champion of clean growth and commits us to a speedy transition to a low-carbon economy.
We are taking a significant step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality in Canada by providing almost $2.9 billion over five years to address climate change and air pollution issues.
In addition, our government is determined to work with our provincial and territorial partners toward a new pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.
The global clean technology market presents a promising opportunity for Canadian businesses, a source of new clean jobs for middle-income earners, and a driver of prosperity for us all.
Canada is largely a nation of immigrants. Our wide diversity is among our greatest assets.
Our immigration system works best when it strikes a balance between Canada’s economic needs and Canadians’ core values of compassion and opportunity for all.
Last November, the Government committed $678 million over six years to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by February 29, 2016.
I was heartened by the outpouring of support and the welcome Canada showed to Syrian refugees. The world saw the best of Canada in our response to this crisis.
Budget 2016 commits new funding to resettle an additional 10,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees over the course of 2016.
This year, the Government intends to admit 300,000 new permanent residents—the highest in over a century.
With this new target level, Canada will offer a place of refuge to those fleeing persecution and support Canada’s long-term economic prosperity.
Canada: A Smart Investment Destination
I firmly believe that these initiatives, and many more in our new budget, will significantly enhance Canada’s strengths, both now and over the long term.
Through investments totalling more than $50 billion over the next six years—along with a tax cut for middle-income earners we announced last December—we expect our plan will raise Canada’s level of real GDP by 0.5 per cent in 2016–17—and by a full per cent the year after.
We expect that to translate into 100,000 jobs created or maintained in the next two years, and about $18 billion in economic activity.
This will help us recover from the global oil price shock and—as we gain traction—move more solidly towards sustained, long-term growth.
In the medium term, we are committed to keeping our debt burden low. By the end of 2020–21, our federal debt-to-GDP ratio will be even lower than where it stands today.
Given these strengths, I think it’s fair to say that our new budget makes Canada an even more attractive place in which to invest.
And I would invite you to come visit, or to come home next year—Budget 2016 also provides free admission to all our National Parks for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.
Canada and the U.K. have long enjoyed a proud and mutually beneficial relationship.
We share many things: a system of government, a language, membership in the Commonwealth, and a profound commitment to build a better future for our citizens.
For Canada’s part, we believe the time has come to make significant investments to meet that last objective.
We are seizing the opportunity to invest in people and the economy, and to prepare Canada for a brighter future.
Of course, this is only the beginning. We have much work still to do, but the Government is absolutely committed to getting the job done.
Today, Canada is one of the great nations of the world, but I believe we can become greater still.
Our Government is making significant investments to achieve this vision.
And we welcome your friendship and support as we work to build an even more prosperous, inclusive economy for our country, for its people—and for the world.