One-on-One: Bill Morneau

VIDEO: Bloomberg TV’s Amanda Lang interviews the Finance Minister on infrastructure, innovation and inclusion

Ottawa, Oct. 12, 2016

Notable quotes

“What Canadians will judge us on is the quality of investments” 
Lang’s first question was on how the government will pay for all its infrastructure promises. Morneau said Canada’s balance sheet is healthy, with the lowest government debt to GDP ratio, and low interest rates.

“Not everyone was on the same page”
The idea of “inclusive growth,” said Morneau, wasn’t as popular before Donald Trump, Brexit and the wave of anti-trade sentiment south of the border. Now, he said, more people understand growth has to include those left behind by globalization. But the “real challenge” will be “dealing with that Canadian anxiety.”

“Canadians will have a better idea”
Morneau said “we’re going to be fiscally responsible, we’re going to maintain that objective to have fiscal anchors, and as we put out our fiscal update this fall, Canadians will have a better idea” of where the government stands.

“Think about the politics afterwards”
Lang asked whether the growth advisory council headed by Morneau will have bold ideas. Morneau said yes. The council has been “seeking out the best ideas around the world” and it has been given orders not to think about the political feasibility of concepts. The government will “think about the politics afterwards,” he said.

Infrastructure agency makes “eminent sense”
The Liberals plan big-ticket items that are “big enough for institutional investors,” said Morneau. The government will have to have a defined pipeline for projects, and need strong partners in the effort. He said the idea of having “some sort of central agency…makes eminent sense.”

No “sex appeal”
In a joking back-and-forth, Lang asked if the government had anything “sexy” coming. Morneau said he was specifically not going after things for their “sex appeal” but instead, “stuff that has the biggest impact on the Canadian economy.” He said “I don’t think we think there’s any one silver bullet,” but the plan will be to do a lot of things well.

“Trump is the canary in the coal mine”
Morneau was asked what he thought of Donald Trump. He said “you can really see all of our international colleagues concerned” with how working families are increasingly distressed about technological change and globalization. “Whether it’s Trump or [Bernie] Sanders or Brexit,” he said, “these are real issues that we need to be concerned with.” Morneau said “we need to show people the benefits of trade. We need to show people the benefits of technology change.” He finished by saying, “Trump is the canary in the coal mine.”

“There will be impacts”
Asked about the government’s initiatives to try and cool some of the housing market, Morneau said “what we are aiming to do” is “long-term stability for the market.” The government’s new rules about stress testing mortgages and its change to capital gains tax means “there will be impacts,” he said, but he thought they will be “relatively short term” and “relatively modest.”

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