On March 28, the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal hosted Canada’s Finance Minister, the Honourable Bill Morneau. He visited the Chamber to present an audience of business people his most recent budget: Investing in the middle class, which was released March 19. It is his fourth budget as Finance Minister and his final one before the federal general election in fall 2019.
This was the first time the Minister has spoken before the Chamber in over three years. Mr. Morneau presented the broad strokes of his budget in French, without notes.
Here are three key points from his speech.
Pride in Canada’s fiscal balance sheet
Speaking before the Chamber, the Minister took the opportunity to outline federal fiscal results. According to Mr. Morneau, Canada leads G7 countries on this front. This is an enviable position, and the outlook for the future is promising.
The Minister also addressed job creation. He pointed out that after three years of a Liberal government, Canada’s unemployment rate is at its lowest point in a generation. Some 900,000 jobs were created during that period.
Two key measures for Canadians
Mr. Morneau presented some of the key measures from his budget, starting with the Canada Training Benefit. This new measure will enable workers age 25 to 64 to benefit from a non-taxable amount of $1,000 every four years to acquire new skills or develop professional qualifications. Worth an estimated $815 million over five years, this measure was welcomed by the Chamber when the budget was tabled.
The Minister also pointed to the $10,000 increase in the maximum amount for the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) to enable more Canadians to become homeowners. In the same vein, the First-Time Home Buyers Incentive (FTHBI) was announced.
Uncertainty with the U.S.
Interviewed by Michel Leblanc after his speech, Mr. Morneau noted that the ratification of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) is progressing as expected. He remarked that some challenges remain, particularly with respect to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium. The Minister remains confident that a resolution is within sight.
Mr. Morneau also noted that the trade dispute between the U.S. and China is hanging over Canada-U.S. negotiations. His government is in weekly discussions with its American counterparts to end the tariffs in effect.