By Alastair Sharp and Claire Sibonney
TORONTO Nov 22 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.
Canada's fiscal shortfall of 1.4 percent of gross domestic
product is tiny compared to that of the United States and some
other major economies. But it is a sore point for policy makers
in a country that ran an 11-year string of surpluses prior to
the global financial crisis.
"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
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 on Thursday the next budget in early 2013
would continue with what he called "pro-growth initiatives" of
the past year, giving as examples previously-announced
initiatives to strengthen the venture capital system and to
provide skills training for the work force.
He hinted there would be "much more," without giving
The plan will not include tax hikes and the government will
continue to look for ways to cut spending, he said.
"From the experience of Greece and beyond, Canadians know
that the consequences of unsustainable finances are all too
painful," he said.