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Budget surplus may top predictions, Flaherty says

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Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is optimistic about the election-year budget surplus.

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is optimistic about the election-year budget surplus.

OTTAWA -- The federal budget surplus could be bigger than predicted in 2015, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in an interview aired Sunday.

The assessment falls in line with projections from the parliamentary budget office that came a month ago.

A Dec. 5 report from the PBO estimated the government could achieve a surplus of $4.6 billion by 2015, nearly $1 billion more than the estimate included in the November economic update.

In an interview with CTV's Question Period, Flaherty said Canada could have a bigger surplus than projected if both the domestic and U.S. economies continue to gain strength.

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"We could have a larger surplus than we anticipate, but we will have a surplus," Flaherty said.

The Harper Conservatives are relying on balancing the books to help propel the party through a federal election campaign scheduled for fall 2015.

However, the PBO report prefaced its surplus projections on expectations the government would maintain EI premiums at current levels, there will be no delays in selling some public assets and spending restraints will continue.

That is exactly what the government expects to do, Flaherty said.

The government has frozen basic EI premium rates at $1.88 for every $100 earned until 2016.

As well, it has announced it's selling some assets, including the Ridley Terminals and Dominion Coal Blocks in British Columbia and the government's remaining General Motors shares.

Flaherty said the government would continue cutting spending to eliminate the budget deficit in time for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

"We're controlling our own departmental spending," he said, adding his government will not reduce transfers to the provinces or cut programs or benefits.

Flaherty backed away from recent concerns about the level of personal debt held by Canadians, telling CTV moves to shore up mortgage rules have kept housing debt loads in check.

"The (housing) market is calming somewhat, so I'm less concerned than I was," he said.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 6, 2014 B6

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