Canada says "close" to eliminating deficit on schedule

Sun Nov 4, 2012 9:18pm EST
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* Flaherty says not obsessed with exact year of balanced books

* Will present fall fiscal update within two weeks

By Louise Egan

MEXICO CITY, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Canada will report within two weeks that it is "close" to meeting its target of eliminating the budget deficit in 2015-16, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Sunday, suggesting Ottawa may still be a few billion dollars in the red at that time.

Canada ran a fiscal surplus for over a decade prior to the global financial crisis, but then fell into deficit as it injected cash into the economy to stimulate growth. In 2009, the Conservative government pledged to balance the books again in 2015-16 through government spending cuts and economic growth.

More recently, Flaherty has avoided a precise date for reaching that goal, referring only to reaching surplus in the "medium term."

"If you look at what the numbers show us -- and I'll do the fall economic update within a couple of weeks -- you'll see the numbers and we're pretty close to balancing," Flaherty told reporters just before hearing into a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers.

Flaherty said the assumptions in the fiscal outlook will be conservative to account for the high level of risk in the global economy. He said he wasn't so worried about being a year or two behind schedule with the fiscal target.

"When you're looking at a budget of C$275 billion dollars and you're looking at a few billion dollars of deficit, you're pretty close," he said.   Continued...