Harper confident deficit will be erased as promised

Prime Minister Stephen Harper gestures as a soldier from the Voltigeurs regiment reacts prior to a news conference to announce the restoration of the Manege Militaire in Quebec City, November 16, 2012.

Credits: REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger


OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn't want to campaign the next election with a satchel of broken promises on his back.

Three days after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced the government would miss its 2015-16 promise to eliminate its deficit and set in motion a series of tax breaks, Harper imposed his own timeline Friday while doling out cash in Quebec City.

"It remains the government's plan, intention, to balance the ($275-billion) budget prior to the next federal election," he said at a press conference.

The government's revised figures this week forecast a $1.8-billion deficit for 2015-16, not the $3.4-billion surplus projected in March.

But the feds say this week's fiscal update includes a $3 billion adjustment for risk that may or may not be swallowed depending on how the economy fares - giving itself a bit of wiggle room to post a small surplus before the next election.

Flaherty -- who was in New York encouraging Washington lawmakers to fix their fiscal mess that could drag Canada into a recession and continue to cut into the government's tax stream -- held out hope he could still balance the books on time.

Flaherty is counting on the worsening global economic situation and its headlock on commodity prices -- especially the energy sector -- to drastically improve before Canadians go to the polls in 2015.

"As you know from other budgets, these numbers are not written in stone," he said about this week's fiscal update. "Things change and revenues change sometimes and expenses change sometimes."

During last year's campaign, Harper promised income-splitting for young families and an adult fitness tax credit. He also pledged to double that same credit for kids to $1,000 and double what Canadians can sock into tax-free savings accounts to $10,000 once the budget is balanced.
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