Federal Finance Minister says “Europe” keeps him up at night

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty made an appearance in Halifax Thursday night speaking to The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

Flaherty had what was billed as a “fireside chat” with the economic thinkthank’s chairman, Clearwater Seafoods billionaire John Risley, and then took questions from the audience.

When asked what keeps him up at night, Flaherty said in one word “Europe.”

“I’m actually very worried about Europe. I think that they are…the economy’s in recession, it doesn’t look like it’s about to leap out of recession. This is the largest group of consumers in the world – 500 million people, some very serious housing bubbles – Ireland, Spain and so on,” he told the crowd of about 150.

Canada continues to try to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the European Union.

Flaherty, who is the father of 22-year-old triplet sons, says he’s also concerned about the gap in youth unemployment.

He says a lot of qualified young people are having trouble getting into the job market, which is why the government is sponsoring an internship program and has invested in the Canada Jobs Grant.

Flaherty joked with the audience that he had come to Halifax to get away from the scandals in his home province of Ontario.

“I was at a dinner in Toronto the other night and I said ‘I usually I fly from Ottawa to Toronto to get away from politics – this is not working,’ given the issues we have in Toronto right now,” said Flaherty to laughter from the audience, referring to the scandal surrounding beleaguered Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. “I picked the wrong city. That’s why I’m in Halifax now. There are no scandals here, please.”

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