* Tuesday's fiscal update had pushed balanced budget to
* Conservative platform had promised balance by 2014-15
* Harper, Flaherty now say it will be 2015
* Opposition says Harper making it up as he goes along
By Randall Palmer and Edward Krudy
OTTAWA/NEW YORK, Nov 16 The Canadian government
on Friday reiterated its intention to balance its budget by
2015, three days after projecting there would be deficits until
In separate appearances in Quebec City and New York, Prime
Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty were
at pains to say they still intended to end the red ink by 2015.
"It remains the government's plan, intention, to balance the
budget prior to the next federal election. The recent economic
and fiscal update by the minister indicates we are actually very
close to that objective," Harper told reporters in Quebec City.
The next election is in October 2015.
Flaherty's fall fiscal update on Tuesday had pushed back the
target date for eliminating the deficit by a year, to 2016-17,
citing a weak global economy.
But the minister said in a speech in New York that the
government was on track to balance the budget in the next two to
three years, barring major external events, and he later
clarified that he intended a balanced budget by 2015.
"The prime minister's always correct," he chuckled.
He sought to explain the discrepancy by saying the fiscal
update had built in a C$3 billion ($3 billion) contingency
cushion, meaning there was an underlying surplus of C$1.2
billion for 2015-16. He said the projection of a C$1.8 billion
deficit amounted to about half a percent of the C$275 billion
"There's lots of water to go under the bridge between now
and then," he said.
The opposition New Democratic Party noted the discrepancy in
a release headlined: "Stephen Harper makes stuff up about
balancing the budget."
It pointed out that balancing the budget by the next
election was not the same as balancing it by 2016-17.
As it is, even the 2015-16 timetable is a year later than
offered in the Conservative campaign for reelection in May 2011.
They had promised a balanced budget by 2014-15, followed by
major personal income tax relief before the 2015 election.
Flaherty's timetable drew criticism this week from the
Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which said the minister had
become expert at kicking the can down the road.
The projections could be thrown out of whack if the United
States goes off the fiscal cliff, a set of automatic tax hikes
and spending cuts that are to be triggered on Jan. 2 if
legislators and the White House cannot agree on a more nuanced
Flaherty said U.S. failure to avert the fiscal cliff would
cause a significant and immediate decline in Canada's gross
domestic product, and he would counter it.
Referring to a possible economic shock from Europe or the
United States, he said: "If that were to happen and if the
Canadian economy were to be pushed back into recession with the
resulting danger for higher unemployment and the danger always
of a prolonged recession, then we would act."
He added: "We would not stand by and let that happen. The
kinds of measure we can take: there are various tax measures we
can take, there are measures with respect to stimulus we can
take, these are things that we have done before and we can do
On Tuesday, Flaherty spoke of having prepared various