TORONTO -- Canadians shouldn't expect any "risky new spending schemes" or tax increases in the next federal budget, as the Conservatives push ahead with plans to balance the budget by 2015, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Thursday.
Flaherty, speaking to a business audience, said the government plans to get back to a balanced budget "during the current parliamentary term and certainly before the next election."
He said the government will not reduce transfers to provinces and territories for education and health care, that makes up about one-third of the budget. Nor will the government touch spending to individuals like seniors, people with disabilities and children, another third of the budget, he added.
So, Flaherty said, the government is left to focus on the final third of the budget -- program spending.
The government's latest deficit projections, released last week, show a deficit of $26 billion -- up $5 billion from the budget forecast last March, due to global economic weakness that has cut into commodity prices and tax revenues.
The gloomy numbers prompted Ottawa to delay its hopes of balancing the books until 2016-2017, a year later than previously forecast, however both Flaherty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have insisted the government can still balance the budget by 2015.
Budget consultations, Flaherty said, will begin next week.
Flaherty noted that Canada continues to outperform its peers in economic measures like job creation, but said there are still numerous challenges from outside its borders -- the most immediate of which being the U.S. looming "fiscal cliff," a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to take place in the new year if politicians can't agree to an alternative plan.
-- The Canadian Press