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Budget 2017 – Building a Strong Middle Class
Speech by the Hon. Bill Morneau, PC, MP
To the Calgary Chamber of Commerce

March 27, 2017

Introduction

Hello and thank you for joining me here today

I am very pleased to be back in Calgary.

As you might have heard, last Wednesday, I tabled our Government's second budget, called Building a Strong Middle Class – exactly one year to the day from our first budget.

From day one, we have been working hard to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy.

And never has it been more important to do so.

With the sharp drop in global oil prices now more than two years old, Albertans fully understand how issues beyond our borders can test our resolve.

But I know that Albertans don't back down in the face of a challenge. You persevere and turn challenges into opportunities.

Giving Canadians the tools and skills they need to seize those opportunities is what our second Budget is about.

It is a plan that puts Canada's skilled, talented, and creative people at the heart of a more innovative future economy – one that will create middle class jobs today and tomorrow.

It is a plan we started to put in place 18 months ago, when we lowered taxes for middle class Canadians.

Since January 2016, nearly nine million Canadians are benefitting from lower taxes on each paycheque.

We introduced a more generous and better-targeted Canada Child Benefit, which delivers more help to Canadian families with children who need it most.  

With the new Canada Child Benefit, about 300,000 fewer children will be living in poverty in 2017 compared with 2014.

We have provided more support for students, women, and Indigenous Peoples to help them to realize their full potential.

Working together with our provincial and territorial partners, we have achieved a once-in-a-generation enhancement of the Canada Pension Plan and strengthened our health care system.

The progress we have made will result in a better, stronger economy for Albertans and for Canadians.

And, in fact, we're already seeing an impact.

There is emerging evidence that the worst effects of the oil shock are fading.

Employment in the province has increased by almost 20,000 since July 2016.

And over the last year, we have seen promising growth in consumer spending and in the housing sector.

But I know families Alberta families have had it tougher than most.

I want you to know that your government acknowledges that and is on your side.

In late February, I visited Fort McMurray.

I had the chance to see first-hand the spirit of that community as they rebuild their homes and their lives.

So I recognize that, despite some hopeful signs, families are still anxious.

We know that they are worried about their future and their kids' future.

And we know that we can do more.

We can do more to help the economy and help Albertans prepare for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

That is exactly what Budget 2017 is all about.

It is about giving Canadians the skills they need to thrive in a changing economy.

It is about creating opportunities for lifelong learning—so that the next job is a better job. 

It is about seizing the opportunities that come from innovation.

As you know firsthand, we live in a time of tremendous change.

We, as a country, must set a path that will allow all of us to benefit from these changes.

Budget 2017 takes us down this path.

In short, we're investing in people, because Canada's greatest strength is the talent and creativity of Canadians.

Canada is already home to one of the best-educated workforces in the world.

But in an increasingly competitive global economy, more needs to be done to ensure that Canada's workers can learn, adapt and have good jobs throughout their working lives.

To make sure more unemployed and underemployed Canadians access the training and employment supports they need to find and keep good jobs, we are significantly boosting federal support by $2.7 billion to provinces and territories. 

For Canadians looking for work, this means more opportunities to upgrade their skills, gain experience, or get help to start their own business.

It also means more support, like employment counselling, to help them plan their careers. 

In addition, we will make better use of existing flexibilities within the Employment Insurance (EI) program, which allow unemployed workers receiving EI to keep their benefits when they return to school or get training.

With our Budget, we are also working to give our young people the best possible start.

Starting in school, we will take action to promote science, technology, engineering and math; especially for young women, girls and Indigenous youth. 

And we will invest to help make coding a basic skill that our children learn along with reading and writing, by building on the work being done by impressive organizations like Ladies Learning to Code and Actua.

I want a future where our young Canadian women are fluent in English, French and C Plus Plus, where they feel as empowered as men to seize the opportunities of a more innovative economy.

To help more young Canadians, including vulnerable youth, make the transition from school to work and get a strong start in their careers, we will invest in the Youth Employment Strategy.

Taken together, Budget 2017 is a comprehensive set of skills and training measures that will help make Canada's greatest resource—our people—even greater.  

With our second budget, we are striving to ensure that Canadians have the tools they need to thrive in an innovation-driven economy—and we are taking bold steps in making Canada a world-leading centre for innovation.

From urban centres to farms, from researchers looking to secure new patents to entrepreneurs working to bring their products to market, innovation is what allows Canadians to adapt to change and prepare for the future. 

We need to build on our established record of success by making big bets on sectors of the economy that hold enormous potential for future growth.

This includes the highly competitive areas of advanced manufacturing, health and bio-sciences, and clean resources.

Globally, the clean technology market is a more than trillion dollar industry, and will continue to grow over the next decade. 

Places like Alberta, with their significant experience in energy innovation, are ideally placed to contribute to, and to benefit from this growth.

And Budget 2017 will position you to do this.

To help businesses grow, our Government will work to provide the right combination of financing, technical and business advisory support, and opportunities to find customers around the world.  

To provide emerging start-ups the funds they need, we are making available up to $400 million through the Business Development Bank of Canada to increase the availability of late stage venture capital through the new Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative. With funds leveraged from the private sector, this new capital could inject around $1.5 billion into Canada's innovation capital market. 

The creation of a new $1.26 billion five-year Strategic Innovation Fund will attract and support new high-quality business investments in dynamic and emerging sectors, such as clean technology and agri-food.

Through this budget, our government will provide $125 million to launch a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy.

The strategy will connect centres of expertise like Edmonton to Toronto-Waterloo and Montreal to position Canada as a world-leading destination for companies seeking to invest in AI and innovation.

And through a new procurement program, the Government will act as a first customer to support new and emerging Canadian businesses, so they can grow, create new jobs, and find new customers around the world.

Through Budget 2017, our Government is dramatically rethinking the way we engage with businesses, researchers and investors  in order to seize the opportunities in the innovation economy and make them work all Canadians.

Our Government knows that better is possible.

And we know the best way to deliver more prosperity to the greatest number of Canadians is by making smart investments in people and in the economy so that both prosper over the long term. 

And we remain committed to doing this in a manner that is realistic, sustainable, and responsible, while maintaining our low debt-to-GDP ratio.  

We are building a country where everyone has the opportunity to contribute to, and to benefit from, strong economic growth.

With our latest budget, and its ambitious focus on skills and innovation, we have taken another major step on this path.

And I look forward to working together to take us even further.  

Thank you.