Federal finance minister Bill Morneau was in Saint John on Thursday to talk to students at the University of New Brunswick as he makes his way across the country, trying to sell Canadians on the 2019 federal budget.
Morneau took questions ranging from his path to the front bench of the house, to Canadian trade, to what the province of New Brunswick can do to strengthen its economy.
Students will be a key demographic during the election this fall, with some budget measures, specifically cuts to student loan interest rates, intended to drum up support.
When speaking to reporters afterward, Morneau claimed that students have been a priority of this Liberal government since taking office in 2015.
“The way we look at what we’re doing here is it’s a continuation of what we started on day one,” he said.
“It’s not about anything other than recognizing that if we have young people that are successful, if we have families that are successful than our economy is going to be successful.”
Morneau embarks on his cross-country budget tour at a tough time for the Liberals, no doubt hoping to distract from the ongoing SNC-Lavalin scandal at the House of Commons. Typically after the budget is tabled MPs fan out across the country, but the 257 confidence motions filed by the opposition Wednesday night have tied many to their seats in the house.
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Despite the attention being placed on the situation in Ottawa, Morneau says he believes Canadians are interested to hear what he has to say about the budget.
“I actually find people very interested to hear what we are doing in this budget,” Morneau said.
“I’m finding a very open audience and, you know, we always know that there will be other things going on that we will have to talk about.”
During his remarks to students, Morneau consistently tried to link together key pieces of Liberal policy, attempting to portray the government as a prime supporter of Canadians at various key stages of life — from the new tuition interest rate cuts and first-time home buyers’ program to older programs, like the signature Canada Child Benefit and changes to the Canada Pension Plan.
Morneau will remain in Atlantic Canada for the time being, making an appearance in Halifax tomorrow where he is the speaker at a luncheon put on by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.