Debt and CPP top finance ministers' list

Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 14, 2012.



OTTAWA - Debt levels, changes to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and jobs were the top priorities for provincial and territorial finance ministers, who were in the capital to discuss economic concerns with Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty this weekend and Monday.

Although Flaherty has said he's willing to discuss CPP changes with his provincial counterparts, he has also indicated the economy is still too weak to implement increases to contribution limits.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said he would continue to "press for modest enhancements and I suspect there are other provinces who will do the same."

CPP was an issue the last time finance ministers met a year ago. In the interim, Flaherty said any legislative changes couldn't pass unless they had the unanimous support of all the provinces and territories, though only two-thirds support is required.

"I'll remind Mr. Flaherty that it doesn't require a consensus, the rules are the rules," Duncan said. "You simply can't make a unanimous rule unilaterally."

With the deadline of the so-called "fiscal cliff" only weeks away and no plan yet from the Americans on how to avoid it, the finance ministers wanted to discuss the implications for Canada and how to avoid a recession here.

Saskatchewan Finance Minister Ken Krawetz said he looked forward to an update from Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney on the North American economy.

When recent media reports that Carney had been courted by the federal Liberal party for months, many observers were surprised by Flaherty's apparent complacency.

"I don't have any comment on that," Flaherty said. "Usually I would say something, but I'm not going to talk about that issue right now."

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