Flaherty happy to be in scandal-free Halifax 

Canada’s finance minister joked during a corporate dinner Thursday night that he was glad to be in Halifax because “there are no scandals.”

Far from the uproar in Ottawa over senators’ expense claims, Jim Flaherty engaged 150 guests of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies in a dialogue on how to keep the Canadian economy strong.

Flaherty took part in an hour-long “fireside” conversation with AIMS chairman John Risley, the seafood magnate, and fielded questions from representatives of Halifax’s business community at the sold-out dinner at the Prince George Hotel.

When Stephen Lund, president and CEO of Nova Scotia Business Inc., the province’s business development agency, asked Flaherty what keeps him up at night, the finance minister said he is worried about the economy in Europe.

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to leap out of recession,” he said. “There’s a very serious housing bubble in Ireland, Spain and so on. We’ve done everything we can to avoid that happening here and it appears to be working.”

Flaherty, a father of 22-year-old triplet sons, also said he is concerned about youth unemployment.

“There are a lot of really qualified young people who are having difficulty getting into the job market and just getting a chance to show what they can do,” he said. “And that’s why in the budget this year we put the Canada Job Grant … plus there’s an internship program that we’re sponsoring and much more money into apprenticeships.

“I don’t want to have a situation that I’m afraid we’re going to see in some of the European countries where there’s a period of time where young people really lack opportunities.”

Risley asked Flaherty whether the Conservative government has done any assessment that supports or refutes claims that changes to Canada’s employment insurance program will harm Atlantic Canadians.