Canada to present federal budget week of March 21: sources

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s new Liberal government is set to unveil its first budget in the week of March 21, two sources with knowledge of the process said on Tuesday.

Canada's Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The budget, which the Liberals have pledged will include major new spending aimed at boosting a flagging economy, is most likely to be presented to Parliament on Monday, March 21 or Tuesday, March 22, said one of the sources, who asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the matter.

When the Liberals were in power from 1994 to 2005, they delivered 11 budgets, nine of which fell on Monday or Tuesday. The party will most likely stick to the same pattern, especially since the Friday of that week is the Good Friday federal holiday, the source said.

Another person briefed by finance department officials confirmed the budget would be released in the week of March 21.

In response, a spokesman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government had not yet announced a budget date.

A Liberal official said last month that the budget could be pushed back to April to give Morneau more time to judge how much damage low commodity prices are doing to the economy and government revenues.

Since then the Canadian dollar and the price of oil have recovered a little.

Two senior Liberals, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the idea of an April budget was now off the table.

“Some of the things we need to do can’t wait till then,” said one.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week he was committed to fast-tracking infrastructure investments in the oil- and gas-rich province of Alberta, which is suffering from the global slump in energy prices.

The Liberals won power in October on the back of a promise to run three consecutive budget deficits of no more than C$10 billion ($7.2 billion) annually to help fund investment in infrastructure.

Since then the economy has deteriorated more than expected, and senior Liberal sources say the first deficit will be larger than planned.

Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Jonathan Oatis