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Finance Minister discusses budget with Alberta business leaders

Last Updated Jan 16, 2020 at 3:25 pm MST

Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks to reporters in Calgary following a roundtable discussion with Alberta business leaders as part of federal budget consultations. Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (PHOTO: Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Yet another federal minister was in Calgary on Thursday, as this time Finance Minister Bill Morneau had a meeting with business leaders to discuss the 2020 budget.

Morneau is holding consultations to gauge what Canadians desire from the budget, and indicated that the needs of Alberta businesses also need to play a big part in that process.

“A very positive discussion,” Morneau told reporters following his roundtable talk at the Hyatt hotel in downtown Calgary, hosted by the Business Council of Alberta. “The goal is to listen to the issues and challenges across the country and to understand what are the key themes that we’re hearing and what are the specific issues in each region.”

Morneau acknowledged they need to continue to support the energy industry in Alberta and noted that success here means success for all of Canada.

READ MORE: Alberta government looks back on 2019, has big plans for 2020

At the same time, they can tout advancements being made that assist with the federal government’s climate change goals.

“So we have a sense of optimism that as the world changes and as we go through long-term transitions, that we have a way that we can use the great people here and resources here towards an optimistic future,” he said.

The overall positive reaction from Morneau was echoed by a member of the roundtable.

“The reality is that there’s more alignment than one would expect,” Adam Legge, President of the Business Council of Alberta said. “There’s a perception across the country that it’s Alberta versus the rest of Canada, and that the interests are very divergent. I can tell you from the business perspectives around the room that there is quite a bit of alignment.”

Legge noted that the positive mood may not stretch down to common Albertans, but hopes that will change if the federal government can deliver on commitments and start improving job numbers and profits in the province.

But overall, he believed these discussions are worthwhile.

“To have a voice of all Canadians, and particularly with our federal government that says we are proud of our natural resource sector, we believe we can be global leaders in this.”

Morneau agreed, and it is imperative on the federal government to showcase what Alberta has to offer.

“There’s great innovation going on in this province, there’s great opportunities in multiple sectors and there’s challenges that we need to think about in some specific sectors. We are going to incorporate those in our thinking for the budget,” the minister said.

TRADE, PIPELINES AND THE ROYALS

Various other topics were also brought up by reporters in the chat with Morneau, including the new NAFTA deal, known as USMCA.

The deal was ratified by the American Senate on Thursday by a wide margin, though there was still some light opposition.

That included Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer opposing the trade deal on the grounds it does not do enough to address climate change.

Morneau acknowledged there will always be different points of view, but stressed the government’s belief this is beneficial for everyone.

“Our view is that this is an important milestone,” he said. “It’s positive for our economy, and we look forward to working with investors to make sure that they take advantage of this new agreement. So, it’s only positive and we’ll continue to do what’s right for Canada.”

Other opponents to the deal include Vermont Senator and Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, and Morneau pledged they will work with whatever administration is in the White House after the November election.

The Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion was a point of discussion as well, with Morneau asked about legal challenges before the Supreme Court of Canada ruled hours later that British Columbia could not block the flow of heavy oil going through the province.

READ MORE: Oilpatch buyers expected to stay on the sidelines in 2020, analysts say

Morneau said the government’s purchase of the pipeline was intended to show it is in the national interest.

“We believe that this project is an important way to get a fair price for our resources and important for our ability to ensure that we can continue to be responsible in the sector.”

And finally, questions over who will pay for security for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were raised again, but the Finance Minister was mum about any possible discussions in that department.

“I have really not been engaged on this issue. I am sure there’s many things that need to be considered from the standpoint of the royals. I’m not part of that process,” Morneau said. “I want to be clear: I am not engaged in any of this discussion at this time.”