OTTAWA, April 7 Canada's new finance minister,
Joe Oliver, promised on Monday to cut taxes for families once
the budget is balanced, giving no details and sticking to the
Conservative government's longstanding script in his first major
speech in the new role.
Oliver, previously the government's energy minister and
pitch man for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, was
appointed as finance minister on March 19. He replaces Jim
Flaherty, who served for eight years under Prime Minister
Speaking to a business audience in Toronto, Oliver repeated
his predecessor's main message: low taxes and fiscal
conservatism are here to stay.
"Once the budget is balanced our priority will be to provide
tax relief for hardworking Canadian families," Oliver said in
the prepared text of the speech.
"That is what we committed to in the last election, that is
what we have delivered, and that is what we are going to
continue to do," he said.
He warned detractors not to "expect a big stimulus program."
The federal budget is on track to reach a surplus in time
for an October 2015 election. In the 2011 election campaign,
Harper promised a big tax break for couples with children,
saying they would be allowed to split their income for tax
But that idea has since been thrown into doubt. Just before
stepping down, Flaherty questioned whether the measure would
benefit society overall, suggesting a split in the Conservative
ranks. There were also media reports that Harper was having
second thoughts as well.
Oliver has so far avoided saying anything more specific than
that there will be tax cuts benefiting families.
In addition to keeping taxes low, his stay-the-course plan
on Monday included several pillars: addressing skills shortages
in some sectors and regions of the Canadian economy, opening new
markets for exports through free trade deals, diversifying
markets for Canada's oil and other commodities, and investments
in research and innovation.
Oliver began his speech by describing the five agonizing
hours he spent on a plane last month after being told that
Harper wanted to speak with him, but not knowing why.
Just before take-off in Toronto on a flight headed for
Vancouver, Oliver's BlackBerry buzzed, which he said was "not
terribly unusual." It was a staff member telling him Harper
wanted a word. "And that was unusual," he said.
"Then seconds later another email arrives, this time from my
wife saying the PM wants to speak to me. OK. I got it. But then
the plane takes off, so I have five hours to consider what it
might mean," he said.
"This could be good. Or not."
(Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Peter Galloway)