Finance Minister Bill Morneau to unveil budget March 30

Finance Minister Bill Morneau told the House of Commons Wednesday that he will unveil his latest federal budget on March 30.

Fiscal plan expected to split focus between COVID-19 response, climate measures and child care

Finance Minister Bill Morneau rises during question period in the House of Commons Wednesday to announce the date of the coming federal budget. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau told the House of Commons today that he will unveil his latest federal budget on March 30.

"We have made significant investments over the past four years to improve the lives of all Canadians ... At the same time, we have improved our fiscal situation," Morneau said.

"Our fiscal position is so important for our ability to deal with challenges, real challenges that Canadians recognize that we're facing in the economy today."

Morneau made the announcement during question period just hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $1 billion package to help Canadians cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

The finance minister has said that the budget will include measures to deal with the effects of COVID-19 while focusing on the long-term need to shift the economy away from fossil fuels.

Last week, Morneau told an audience at the Canadian Club of Toronto that he would include a larger-than-normal risk adjustment in his budget — essentially a contingency plan — to make sure Canada has the fiscal firepower to respond to the virus-related slump hitting the global economy.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he will deliver his next budget March 30. 0:44

Speaking Friday in Montreal, Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly offered a sense of how the outbreak is hitting the Canadian economy in ways large and small.

"Chinese tourists have a $2 billion impact in Canada and we expect that to go down by $550 million by June," Joly said. "To give you another example, the duty-free boutique at the Vancouver airport is down 50 per cent of its revenue."

Keeping climate change in mind

With the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise around the world, environmental activists have warned the federal government to remain focused on actions to mitigate climate change in the budget.

"The fact that we're facing a variety of uncertainties in the global market right now shouldn't dissuade us from having a climate budget," Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada, said earlier this week in Ottawa. "It should actually make us more encouraged that a climate budget is the way to go for Canada."

Morneau's speech in Toronto Friday addressed the need to position Canada as a global leader in the fight against climate change, which he called "the defining issue of our time."

"There is no path forward for Canadian businesses that doesn't include reducing their carbon emissions. Investors just won't be there," Morneau said. "For the energy sector, we intend on working together on approaches that reduce emissions and create more economic opportunities for the workers and businesses, including in the Prairies."

The budget's climate measures are expected to focus on three main areas: meeting emissions targets, helping the fossil fuel sector transform itself and offering support to workers displaced by that transformation.

The premiers — led by Alberta's Jason Kenney — are also demanding an overhaul of the fiscal stabilization program that would send billions to struggling oil-producing provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mornreau agreed in December to review the program. So far, however, he hasn't announced any changes to the program or sent any new money to the provinces.

The budget also is supposed to include details of a Liberal campaign promise to create 250,000 before- and after-school child care spaces. Combined with a pledge to cut child care fees by 10 per cent, the Liberals estimated the measures would cost $535 million a year.

With files from the CBC’s David Cochrane and The Canadian Press


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