Finance Minister Joe Oliver said reducing taxes will be a priority in the 2015 budget, ahead of his meeting with high-powered business leaders today and tomorrow for his annual policy retreat in Wakefield, Que. 

"We're not in a position where we have to take draconian steps. We're not looking to an austerity budget. But we're determined to proceed in a responsible way," Oliver said. 

"We're going to have a surplus; we will be focusing on reducing taxes." 

The annual event for the finance minister comes on the heels of a brutally disappointing jobs report last week that saw only 200 jobs created in July and huge losses in full-time opportunities. Many thought 20,000 jobs would be created.

On top of that, the Conference Board of Canada ‎said last week that the business sector is holding back on investment.

Oliver said he wasn't concerned about last month's paltry job growth, saying that expected improvements in the U.S. economy should spur job creation.   

He said he was worried that businesses may be reluctant to invest, but hopeful that a boost in the U.S. economy will address the issue. 

"Business leaders look at global economy, look at the U.S., and if they don't see a growing market, then they're going to be more reluctant to invest money. So that's clearly a big issue," he said. 

"That's why I'm tentatively hopeful that as the U.S. starts growing, it will encourage business to use capital they have. At the end of the day, that's what it's about."

Oliver and the business leaders, including executives from Costco, Hydro-Québec and Rio Tinto‎, began their meeting Tuesday at 1 p.m. and will wrap up ‎Wednesday at 2 p.m.

They'll discuss obstacles to economic growth, and Oliver's outlook for the year ahead.

The annual retreat serves as preparation for the government's fall economic statement and the 2015 budget. 

Each year, experts and representatives are invited to the retreat, in Wakefield, across the river from Ottawa, to discuss what the government as well as the private sector can do to address current economic challenges.

This will be Oliver's first summer meeting after taking over the finance portfolio from the late Jim Flaherty earlier this year. 

Here's the full list of business leaders meeting with Oliver: 

  • Joseph Canavan, board of directors chair, Children's Aid Foundation.
  • Sherry Cooper, chief economist, Sherry Cooper Associates.
  • Laura Dottori-Attanasio, senior executive vice-president and chief risk officer, CIBC.
  • Kevin Falcon, executive vice-president, Anthem Capital Corporation.
  • Peter Foster, author/journalist, National Post.
  • Virginia Flood, vice-president, government relations, Rio Tinto.
  • Arvind Gupta, president and vice-chancellor, University of British Columbia.
  • Stanley Hartt, counsel, Norton Rose Fullbright. 
  • Linda Hasenfratz, chief executive officer, Linamar Corporation.
  • John Irving, president, Ocean Capital Investments Limited.
  • Peter Jelley, group head & managing director, investment banking, Toronto, National Bank.
  • Hassan Khosrowshahi, chairman, Persis Holdings Ltd.
  • Marie-José Nadeau, executive vice-president, corporate affairs and secretary general, Hydro-Québec; chair, World Energy Council.
  • Bill Robson, president and chief executive officer, C.D. Howe Institute.
  • Paul Soubry, president and chief executive officer, New Flyer.
  • Louise Wendling, senior vice-president, Costco Canada.

With files from Susan Lunn