Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr is in his home city on Thursday to sell Manitobans on Tuesday's federal budget. Other Liberal government ministers are fanning out across the country as part of a budget promotion barrage.
- The big 7: 2016 federal budget items that matter to Ottawa
- Liberal budget includes billions in new spending for aboriginal people
Carr, who's also the MP for Winnipeg South Centre, joined CBC host Marcy Markusa on Information Radio on Thursday to talk about what the federal budget means for Manitobans.
Marcy Markusa: Why did your government choose to run a deficit three times the size of what you committed to running during the election, just four months ago?
Jim Carr: We believe it's important to build a platform for growth, important for Manitoba. We're spending $48 million on the Lake St. Martin Channel flood mitigation, which is important for our province, as all Manitobans know.
There will be significant investment in green infrastructure. In my own Natural Resources Department there's money being set aside to look at connecting the electrical grid regionally across Canada, east to west.
Manitobans are frugal. What are your reservations about running deficits this large?
You have to look at the environment in which we're making these investments. These are historically low interest rates at a time of sluggish economic growth. There has been a hit because of low commodity prices. We believe this is actually the ideal time for governments to invest in education and infrastructure, at a time when those investments are more affordable than they would be if interest rates were at five per cent or 10 per cent.
Where do you see the biggest priorities for aboriginal people in Manitoba?
On reserve communities, drinking water that's potable has to be a number 1 priority for us. Investment in schools — there's still a funding gap; we're looking to close that gap.
How will projects on First Nations communities be chosen?
There will be a system in consultation with communities that we'll look at the areas in greatest need. There will be ways in which we can assess the priorities.
It will cost $2 billion to eliminate mould and chronic overcrowding in Manitoba First Nations alone. How do we compare with the rest of the country?
I don't know the answer to that. Those conditions are unconscionable. We set aside an expenditure figure that we think is reasonable with all of the competing demands. Not every one of our campaign promises can be delivered on in this budget. It's a four-year mandate.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.