Finance Minister Bill Morneau says his next federal budget will focus on improving the economic success of women, finding ways for science to help the economy over the long haul and preparing workers for the rapidly changing job market.
Morneau shared some of the core themes of his next budget plan in an interview with The Canadian Press.
These subjects will sound familiar as the government prepares a budget designed to build upon commitments in its two previous fiscal blueprints.
Morneau’s third budget is expected to emphasize gender equality and lay out government efforts to boost the labour-force participation of women.
Morneau said making it easier for women play a bigger role in the job market will not only help families, it will also boost economic growth.
“We’re looking towards a budget that’s going to very clearly focus on how we can help all Canadians, but we’re specifically thinking about: how do we make sure that we have strong outcomes for women in our economy?” he said.
“That’s going to be a central focus of what we’re trying to achieve.”
He said he pushed his provincial counterparts at a recent finance ministers’ meeting to follow this kind of gender-based budgeting approach — and he believes the idea is gaining some traction in the provinces.
Another “key element” under examination ahead of the budget is how science can play a role in building a solid economic foundation over the long term, he added.
Morneau and Science Minister Kirsty Duncan participated in a pre-budget roundtable with leading scientists last Friday at the Royal Ontario Museum.
In past budgets, the Liberal government has made major investments in science and post-secondary education. The upcoming budget is expected to build on those.
As he prepares for the budget, Morneau also has in hand an April report on the state of science in Canada.
In that document, an independent panel said the system urgently needs more funding as well as new thinking. The review, led by former University of Toronto president David Naylor, called for $1.3 billion in new money for science programs and an overhaul in the way research is overseen.
“My read is that they definitely would like to make a meaningful investment and they’re trying to figure out how to configure it,” Naylor said Tuesday in an interview.
Naylor, who met with Morneau last week, said he’s been pressing Ottawa for a multi-year commitment, which he believes is essential. Within it, he would like to see support for early-career researchers.
Paul Davidson, president and CEO of Universities Canada, is hoping the budget will endorse the Naylor report, make a substantial down payment towards it and provide a road map on how it intends to go the rest of the way.
Davidson said he’s started to see a few signs and hear encouraging comments in the last few weeks from ministers like Duncan and Morneau.
“I’m really pleased that Minister Morneau is starting to signal that this is an emerging theme,” he said.
Morneau also said the spring budget will contain measures to ensure people have the skills for jobs of the future, especially with so many technological changes on the horizon. The government has made big financial commitments aimed at boosting innovative firms in Canada and Morneau said he would like to focus investments to ensure more workers have the skills to fill those new jobs.
“Some of those issues are really animating what we’re trying to achieve in 2018 and beyond,” Morneau said.
A recent report by Morneau’s economic growth council recommended Ottawa introduce new measures to help Canadians acquire new skills to prepare for the transformational — and sometimes job-killing — effects of technological change.
Among its suggestions, the council said Canada urgently needs another $15 billion in annual investments for adult skills development to help workers adjust to the demands of the rapidly evolving labour market.
The influential group, which has helped guide policy development in the past, is chaired by Dominic Barton, managing director of global consulting giant McKinsey & Co.