Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks at Ryerson

Finance Minister Bill Morneau at Ryerson on April 8 for a town hall on economic growth and funding for post-secondary education.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau at Ryerson on April 8 for a town hall on economic growth and funding for post-secondary education. (Alexandra Heck / Ryersonian Staff)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau praised Ryerson’s DMZ as an example of the future of Canada’s economy when he visited the school Friday.

“The DMZ here at Ryerson (is among) places where our economy is particularly effective in creating new ventures, creating new jobs and exciting new opportunities with new technologies,” Morneau said during a town hall session at the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre. “We realize this is the economy of the future and we want to focus on that.”

At the event, Ryerson’s new president, Mohamed Lachemi, said he was “very pleased” with Morneau’s first federal budget, released March 22, for its contributions to post-secondary education. The 2016 budget earmarked $2 billion in support for post-secondary infrastructure projects over the next three years and an additional $95 million per year for research granting councils.

Lachemi had a meeting with Morneau before the event, he saidduring which they discussed what he says is the importance of campus innovation and research for the economy.

Ryerson was one of multiple stops in the finance minister’s cross-country campus tour after the release of his first budget, including the University of Waterloo and the University of New Brunswick.

The event at Ryerson was organized by the Ryerson Young Liberals and the Ryerson Commerce and Government Association.

“One of the reasons that universities have been supporting what we’re trying to do (with the 2016 budget) is because we realize that we need to focus on institutions that are the basis of our research capability and the basis of our innovation as a society,” said Morneau at the town hall, which was attended by about 50 people.

He said that partnering “clusters” of universities and other research organizations and firms would promote both economic and employment growth.

Morneau was questioned about the projected 2016-17 deficit of $29.4 billion – three times the maximum $10 billion deficit the Liberals promised during their election campaign.

He said that the economy is underperforming compared to three months ago during the campaign, with a lower projected economic growth.

Still, he expressed optimism that investment into innovation and research, with the budget’s new measures expected to bring about $11.5 billion into the economy.

“We believe that making these investments we lead us on a faster growth trajectory over time,” Morneau said. “An important objective right now is to invest and grow the economy.”

He also acknowledged that the economy has led to a “youth unemployment rate (that) is stubbornly high.” The unemployment rate among those 15- to 24-years-old is about twice that for the rest of Canada’s population.

The budget outlined $165 million spent this year to create jobs for youth. Morneau mentioned the youth summer jobs program, to which the budget allocated $113 million.

Follow the Ryersonian’s live blog below.

With files from Allison Ridgway.

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