Lib­eral vows on abo­rig­i­nal Cana­di­ans will be high pri­or­ity: Morneau

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s vows to help Canada’s in­dige­nous peo­ple will be a top pri­or­ity in the up­com­ing fed­eral bud­get, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau said Wed­nes­day.

Morneau has launched pre­bud­get con­sul­ta­tions in ad­vance of the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s fis­cal plan, to be in­tro­duced in the com­ing months.

On Wed­nes­day, he fielded eco­nomic ques­tions from stu­dents in an on­line fo­rum with uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try.

“Our com­mit­ments around help­ing abo­rig­i­nal Cana­di­ans with their very sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges are crit­i­cally im­por­tant to us,” Morneau said in re­sponse to one ques­tion.

“You can be sure that that’ll be high pri­or­ity in our com­ing bud­get.”

He said Cana­di­ans gave the Lib­er­als a man­date to fol­low through on their cam­paign prom­ises — al­though he also ac­knowl­edged the coun­try’s eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion has wors­ened.

The Lib­er­als made sev­eral key vows to in­dige­nous Cana­di­ans that were not costed in the party’s plat­form. They in­clude de­liv­er­ing on all 94 rec­om­men­da­tions from the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion’s probe of res­i­den­tial schools and end­ing all boil-wa­ter ad­vi­sories on re­serves within five years.

An­a­lysts, how­ever, have warned that Canada is on a shakier fis­cal foot­ing than the

Lib­er­als

had

an­tic­i­pated

and that the coun­try could be on track for much deeper short­falls than the party pro­jected.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau promised dur­ing the cam­paign to run an­nual deficits of no more than $10 bil­lion over the next two years while pump­ing bil­lions into in­fra­struc­ture projects to stim­u­late the stag­nant econ­omy. He vowed to re­spect that up­per limit for deficits un­less the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion got “rad­i­cally worse” but has since down­graded that com­mit­ment to a “goal.”

His plan also called for Canada’s books to re­turn to bal­ance in 2019-20.

Morneau ac­knowl­edged Wed­nes­day that Canada faces weaker eco­nomic con­di­tions than it did just a couple of months ago, par­tic­u­larly amid still-fall­ing oil prices and fad­ing global growth.

“So, we find our­selves, un­for­tu­nately, with a sit­u­a­tion that’s more dif­fi­cult than ex­pected,” he said in French in re­sponse to one ques­tion.

Morneau will travel across the coun­try next week to seek in­put as he draws up his first fed­eral bud­get.

If the pre-bud­get ques­tion­naire is any in­di­ca­tion of the new gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­i­ties, the bud­get will stress goals the Lib­er­als started high­light­ing months be­fore the elec­tion. Those in­clude en­rich­ing the so­called mid­dle class, in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture and tack­ling en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns with­out hurt­ing the econ­omy.

Morneau

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