On Thursday, Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau was met by more than 30 staff and students at the University of Guelph’s W.F. Mitchell Athletics Centre for a town hall discussion. Morneau’s Royal City visit also included a stop at the YMCA on Woodland Glen Dr, and a roundtable with community leaders at Miijidaa.
The turnout at the U of G though left enough time for Morneau to take questions on a range of topics including clean water-boil advisories, taxes, Unist’ot’en and the RCMP, OSAP, agricultural exports, challenges with the Ontario Provincial government, and foreign relations.
What was not talked about was the upcoming budget. It’s still in development and not yet signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but both Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield and Morneau made comments suggesting that the budget will soon be delivered, although no official date has to be announced.
In one exchange the Central Student Association’s Vice-President External, and Walkerton native, Kayla Weiler dug in on why there are still boil-water advisories on First Nations territories. In response Morneau said that all funds needed to end the boiled water advisories already exist, but the problem hasn’t been solved because of complications relating to ongoing maintenance and training needs, among others.
A common link during the discussion were that concerns that are traditionally the responsibility of the province, which are now being raised to the Federal government to consider. Among them were the cost of tuition for domestic and international students.
What was made clear by Morneau is that the Federal government cannot fix every problem that the PC Ford government in Ontario has made. The approach from the Federal government, he said, is that they will create an umbrella strategy to help with issues, but will not be able to take on each challenge created.
In response to the New York Times opinion piece published last night called “Thank God for Canada”, by Nicholas Kristoff, Guelph Politico asked how government is going to deal with the rising costs of standing up to China.
“We are going to continue to respect the values that we know that Canadians see as critically important,” Morneau said. “We are going to continue to say that diversity is something in Canada that that is enormously successful.
“We are to continue and acknowledge and recognize that we are a country where rule of law is critically important,” Morneau added. “We think that those two examples are things that we can bring to the broader world, and that they act as guide posts as we comport ourselves in international affairs.”
In the continued spat with China the question of ally support arose.
“We’re continuing to talk to our allies about how you can work together on really challenging issues,” said Morneau. “We’ve actually seen significant support in our challenge right now, with our diplomatic challenge with China, from our allies.”
Article and Photos by Zoey Ross.