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Finance Minister Bill Morneau: Budget 2017 and empowering women

  • Communications
  • |
  • Apr 4, 2017
Finance Minister Bill Morneau: Budget 2017 and empowering women

Canada’s government is working on growth, but more importantly, inclusive growth.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau spoke at Ivey on March 29 about Canada’s long-term goals and how the government is working towards inclusive growth. The hour-long event was broadcast on Facebook Live.

The Canadian government’s 2017 budget included a special emphasis on supporting gender equality and women entrepreneurship. In a panel discussion with five MBA students, Morneau talked about specific changes to this year’s budget and what was in store for Canadians going forward.

The participating students included MBA ’18 candidates Jurin Dangbedji, Lauren Mitchell, and Doris Qamar and MBA ’17 candidates Juliana Chesterfeld and Angha Gupta. The event – entitled “Empowering Women in Business: A Discussion with Finance Minister Bill Morneau” – centred around the role of demographics, and in particular, the inclusion of women in business, in contributing to long-term national growth and prosperity. The event was hosted by Assistant Professor Romel Mostafa.

Here are some of the highlights of the discussion:

Working with American allies

Morneau discussed Canada’s relationship with the United States, and the new task force called the United States Canada Council for the Advancement of Women Business Leaders-Female Entrepreneurs.

The task force includes women executives from both countries, including two Ivey alumnae Linda Hasenfratz, EMBA '97, and Tina Lee, HBA '03, as well as former Ivey dean Carol Stephenson.

Going forward, Morneau said the government will do a gender-based analysis for every budget, looking at specific measures the government is considering and how they impact or empower women.

Parental leave extension

Budget 2017 extends parental leave to a potential 18 months, up from 12. The focus here was on flexibility and benefitting the modern family, Morneau said.

“The old system was set up with an idea of a family that existed a generation ago, but it’s not the family that exists today,” he said. “It’s no longer always a two-parent family, with the mom being the lower-earner. We needed more flexibility in our parental leave. We don’t want women in particular to be faced with a binary choice.”

Encouraging women in business

Morneau said more incentives are needed for women to pursue professional programming and entrepreneurship.

He points to the Venture Capital Program that allows early-stage entrepreneurs to get the funding they need. It wasn’t as successful for women as it was for men, Morneau said, so they’ve refreshed it and included a separate tranche for female entrepreneurs.

“There’s not nearly as many women-owned enterprises as there are men-owned,” he said. “We’re trying to create the incentive structure.”

Follow the leader

Many Canadians remember the moment Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a 50/50 gender balanced cabinet. When asked why, his answer was simple: Because it’s 2015.

“This was the first step,” Morneau said. “We also made the decision to start looking at our appointment process and made sure we’re actively engaged in the effort to promote women into leadership roles. We think that it’s much better to do things that encourage good behaviour than to legislate good behaviour.”