Global anxiety about change best tackled by first helping families, says Morneau

MONTREAL – Finance Minister Bill Morneau said global public anxieties about trade, jobs and change can best be calmed by first getting citizens to buy into government efforts to help their families.

“There’s a raging fire in our populations,” he said Wednesday, pointing to the Brexit vote in Britain and American voter angst highlighted by presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

“People are concerned that technological change is causing challenges for themselves and for their families.”

He pointed to driverless trucks that threaten to one day curtail a big source of employment for many men and the declining number of receptionist positions.

The balm is to show how policies can work for families, Morneau said at a pre-budget consultation in Montreal.

He said the federal government has tried to do that through middle-class tax cuts and the Canada Child Benefit that provides average families with thousands of dollars aimed also at lifting families out of poverty.

Morneau said that if politicians don’t think about how policies impact families, they won’t get people to buy into the idea of free trade with Europe or steps to improve trade with China.

“I think that we’re all facing the same challenges that the benefits of globalization, the benefits of trade around the world are positive but they’re unequally distributed,” he later said in an interview.

“So we need to think about how we can show the benefits to Canadians, how we can ensure that middle-class Canadians can see the real benefits today and see the opportunities that we have for tomorrow through these type of investments.”

The public consultation was webcast on Facebook. Participants offered advice on increasing research tax credits, expanding charitable tax support, encouraging young people to attend universities and supporting innovation.

Gabriel Bran Lopez, president of the Montreal Young Chamber of Commerce, urged the government to encourage entrepreneurship by setting aside at least 10 per cent of seats on foreign trade missions to people between 18 and 40 years of age and providing financial support.

Morneau said the ideas will help shape the government’s second budget. Last year, it received more than 5,200 suggestions from 250,000 people who participated in various meetings across the country.