Christmas is over, but provincial business leaders were invited to contribute to a different kind of wish list Thursday.
Federal Minister of State Gordon O’Connor, met with 18 local business representatives Thursday morning to discuss the next phase of Canada’s economic plan.
“We’re trying to get to every substantial town and village in the country to find out what people want, and get some sort of pattern, some common ideas of what they want,” said O’Connor. “In addition to that, of course, in regions you’ll get some regional ideas that are specific to the regions. And so today in St. John’s, 18 people spoke to me, and I’ve taken the notes and we’ll clean up our notes and get them back to the prime minister and the finance minister.”
St. John’s was the first stop for O’Connor, who will also make stops in Ontario and British Columbia, as cabinet ministers cover the country trying to wrap up consultations for Parliament’s next session Jan. 31. Ministers have also been asked by Prime Minister Stephen Harper for their budget recommendations.
While O’Connor was vague on suggestions made by local business leaders — including representatives from Fortis, Vale, Newfoundland Power and the St. John’s Board of Trade — saying businesses want tax credits and reductions in bureaucracy, he did share his own budget ideas.
“We have a subsidy for turning corn into ethanol. I just asked about the plan. Is that the best way to spend $2 billion a year? Or are there better ways to spend $2 billion a year?” he said. “In taxes, if you put more money into the collections side of the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency), you get six times the amount of revenue back. So if you invest $50 million in CRA collections, you get $300 million back. Across the country, there are still billions uncollected. These are just ideas, and other ministers would have put in other ideas, and whether they show up in the budget, who knows?”
O’Connor said he wasn’t sure when the government would bring down the next budget, which is typically unveiled in late February, early March.