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Federal finance minister visits U of C to consult with students

By Fabian Mayer, January 15 2016 —

Students from a junior-level political science class gave their input on the federal budget this Friday as Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau held a town hall at the University of Calgary.

Student questions ranged from youth employment and tuition costs to the refugee crisis.

Multiple students asked questions about Alberta continuing to make equalization payments even as the province’s economy struggles with low oil prices. Morneau said changing the equalization formula is not something the Liberal government is currently considering.

The U of C was just one of Morneau’s stops on a cross-country pre-budget consultation tour. Morneau said Alberta is an important stop due to the province’s dire economic situation.

“The challenges being faced in Alberta right now are significant,” Morneau told students. “We know that the rate of unemployment is getting worse here and I think it would be fair to say the challenges are not by any stretch of the imagination over.”

The town hall, which was also broadcast over Facebook, was moderated by Minister of Veterans Affairs and Calgary Centre MP Kent Hehr.

Morneau touted promised middle-class tax cuts and infrastructure spending as ways to boost economic growth.

“Certainly we’ll be thinking about Alberta as a place where because of the likely increase in unemployment there’s an opportunity for really great workers to be involved in those sorts of projects,” Morneau said.

The finance minister also met with business leaders from the energy sector on Friday in what he called a “frank” discussion centred on pipelines.

“There’s clearly a worry among people in the sector that they do need to find a way to get access to tidewater,” Morneau said in a media scrum following the town hall. “I stated our government’s support for initiatives to find a way to do that.”

Morneau concludes his pre-budget consultations on Saturday in Surrey, B.C.

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