Canada aims to balance budget in 2015, eyes targeted investments

TORONTO Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:03pm EST

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TORONTO Nov 22 (Reuters) - Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Thursday he is aiming to wipe out the federal budget deficit by 2015, in time for the next election, but cautioned the Conservative government would be flexible with that target if the economy soured.

"It remains our intention to balance the budget during this session of Parliament," Flaherty said in the prepared text of a speech he was delivering in Toronto.

"Although we are prepared to be flexible and pragmatic should circumstances warrant -- our plan is to stick to our plan: balanced budgets and low taxes," he said.

The parliamentary session is due to end in October 2015, the same month a federal election is scheduled.

Last week, Flaherty presented a fiscal update that showed a return to balanced budgets in 2016-17, including a C$3 billion ($3 billion) contingency cushion in case the global economy worsens.

But three days later, amid criticism, both he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper were at pains to say they still intended to end the red ink by 2015.

Flaherty said the government would not only continue to restrict spending but would make some investments as well.

"We're also bringing forward targeted and modest investments today to grow the economy and help the private sector create more good jobs," he said.

His next budget in early 2013 will continue to promote previously-announced projects in venture capital and skills training and "much more," he said, without giving details.

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