Finance Minister Bill Morneau's visit to the financial heart of the oilpatch today has "heightened [his] sense of concern" about the tough economic situation facing the country. 

As low oil prices continued to gnaw at Alberta's economy, Morneau met with members of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and leaders from the energy and environmental sectors earlier today.

"They heightened my sense of concern, which was already pretty high, about making sure that we deal with the challenging economic situation in Alberta," he said.

Best time to invest, says minister

Morneau faced tough questions from reporters about the fact that the now struggling Alberta economy has long contributed to Canada's growth through the equalization program, which redistributes money from richer provinces to less wealthy ones. 

Bill Morneau

Bill Morneau answers questions from students at the University of Calgary on Friday. (CBC)

Morneau did not, however, commit to any plan that would allow the province access to emergency funds.

"The single most important thing we can do as a government is think about economic growth," he said.

The finance minister has trumpeted the Liberal government's stimulus spending plan in the face of falling crude prices and a loonie that dropped below the 70-cent U.S. mark this week.

"I will remind you that we are in an era of really low interest rates. It's among the very best times that we can invest in infrastructure," he said.

The Liberals have promised an additional $5 billion in infrastructure spending in each of the first two years of their mandate. 

"Our aspiration is to get going on some projects as rapidly as possible."

Morneau has said the government is paying close attention to oil prices and the Canadian dollar as it crafts its budget, which is expected in March.

With files from The Canadian Press