Upcoming budget to contain funding for 'major infrastructure projects'
Published Sunday, February 9, 2014 11:01AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, February 9, 2014 11:42PM EST
This week’s federal budget will include funding for “major infrastructure projects,” as well as measures to address unemployment among youth, aboriginals and the disabled, says Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
In an interview with CTV’s Question Period that aired Sunday, Flaherty said that with balanced books “very close this year,” infrastructure projects will be a priority in this year’s budget.
“There will be money for infrastructure and, very importantly, major infrastructure projects in Canada, major economic infrastructure projects,” Flaherty said. “It is all about the economy and jobs.”
Flaherty said that while infrastructure “is a good investment, we have to be prudent about it and we have to make sure that the auditor general approves of the way the money is spent.
“We don’t want any corruption, we don’t want the kind of inappropriate behaviour that we’ve seen in some parts of the country when it comes to infrastructure. We are careful, we are cautious. The infrastructure we build is built for economic purposes, it’s not built to glorify somebody’s ego.”
Flaherty said that of the “hundreds of issues” the federal government has considered for the upcoming budget, “some of the most important ones are relating to jobs,” including apprenticeships, internships and training to match jobs that remain unfilled.
He noted that a federal government study conducted in the past year found that there are between 700,000 and 800,000 Canadians ready to join the workforce “if given the opportunity.”
“So we just have to do a better job at matching the people that want to work with the jobs that are available,” he said.
Asked whether the controversial Canada Jobs Grant will be reintroduced in Tuesday’s budget, Flaherty said the minister in charge of the file, Jason Kenney, is making headway in his negotiations with the provinces.
The provinces have vocally pushed back against the program after it was introduced with much fanfare in last year’s budget, with Kenney’s provincial counterparts concerned that it will divert money from programs that serve vulnerable populations.
“Jason Kenney tells me they made significant progress, they’re going in the right direction. I think it’s going to be successful,” Flaherty said. “It’s not just to train people for jobs that aren’t there. We want to see the results. We want to see the people enter the workforce properly trained.”
Despite speculation that this year’s budget will be a stay-the-course document with few goodies for voters, Flaherty characterized it as “important” because it will demonstrate that the federal government has “stayed on course.”
He said he wants “to make sure when we balance the budget that it’s clearly in balance, that there’s no question about it.”
But NDP and Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair says the upcoming budget is a "do-nothing" document that's being introduced at a time when Canadians are distracted by the Sochi Games.
"The Conservatives are bringing in a 'do-nothing' budget in the middle of the Olympics for one reason: they want to be able to claim in next year's budget that we're heading for a zero deficit in the election year," he said.
Flaherty has forecast more than just a zero deficit in 2015; he's predicting a possible surplus.
With a report by CTV News' Parliamentary Correspondent Richard Madan