Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Federal Finance Minister Paints Bleak Picture of Economic Growth Prospects

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Federal Finance Minister Paints Bleak Picture of Economic Growth Prospects

Article excerpt

Canada's economic growth hit hard: minister

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HALIFAX - The federal finance minister spoke of pitch-black moments in his morning shower and some darkening clouds for the Canadian economy as he kicked off his national budget consultation tour in Halifax on Monday.

Bill Morneau drew chuckles from a business audience at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce as he described a morning power outage that occurred while he was covered in soap lather.

The minister said it's just the latest in a series of challenges he's facing as he sets out to prepare his first budget amidst a declining economy.

Within a few minutes of beginning his speech, Morneau launched into a series of slides that painted a bleak picture of economic growth hampered by plunging commodities prices.

He repeated prior statements that the Canadian economy is suffering from slower growth than originally projected by the former Conservative government due partly to oil prices that are less than half those of 2014.

"We knew when we were campaigning we were facing a slow-growth environment," he said.

"The challenge is greater than we expected."

The minister said there's hope that oil prices will improve, but as it stands a declining tax base means his department is expecting a $15 billion per year reduction of GDP beginning this year, compared with what was projected in the last budget.

"It's important to have a frank view of where we're starting from," he said.

Morneau is travelling across the country this week to seek input as he draws up his first federal budget.

The finance minister spoke on the same day as the Bank of Canada's latest business outlook survey was released indicating companies' investment in equipment and hiring intentions for the next year are tumbling to their lowest levels since the 2009 recession.

The former executive chairman of a human resources firm told reporters the survey indicates his party's infrastructure spending will assist in retaining business confidence. …

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