By Leah Schnurr
TORONTO Feb 7 Canada's federal budget next
Tuesday will stay the course towards eliminating the deficit but
won't try to "force the numbers" in order to reach a surplus
sooner than 2015, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Friday.
Flaherty told reporters the budget would contain initiatives
to encourage growth and jobs but that his priority was to "keep
Canada the envy of the world" by fulfilling its promise to reach
a budget surplus in 2015, an election year.
He made clear there was no doubt the goal would be achieved.
"If we really forced the numbers, we might be able to get
close to a balanced budget," Flaherty told reporters when asked
if he could balance the books a year earlier than planned.
"I've never been a believer in that," he said. "I think when
we balance, it will be next year, we need to have the confidence
of the Canadian people that we are clearly balanced without
In November, Ottawa estimated a shortfall of C$17.9 billion
($16.27 billion) in the 2013-14 fiscal year ending March 31, or
about 1 percent of gross domestic product. It saw the deficit
narrowing to C$5.5 billion in 2014-15 followed by a surplus of
C$3.7 billion in 2015-16.
The projected balances include a C$3 billion contingency
fund in case of a big economic shock or natural disaster like
the Alberta floods last year. Excluding the contingency fund, it
wouldn't take much improvement to achieve an underlying surplus.
Flaherty was also asked if the 2015-16 budget surplus would
be larger than predicted in November. "Could be. We'll see," he
But he repeated a need to be cautious because of a fragile
world economy, citing equity markets being "hammered" earlier
Flaherty spoke after buying a pair of shoes, a pre-budget
tradition, at a factory and store in Toronto that specializes in
light industrial safety footwear.