Canada ready to restrain spending to balance budget -minister

Sun Jan 18, 2015 4:09pm EST
 
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TORONTO Jan 18 (Reuters) - Canada's Conservative government is prepared to curb spending to eliminate the deficit in 2015, a senior minister said on Sunday, just days after the government said it would delay unveiling its next budget so it can weigh the impact of tumbling oil prices.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney also said eliminating the budget deficit for the first time since the financial crisis would have symbolic value.

The Conservatives, who will be fighting to retain their majority government in an election scheduled for October, have pledged to balance the books in fiscal 2015-16 and sought to convince voters they are the party best qualified to manage the economy.

"We'll have to certainly look at potentially continued spending restraint. For example, we've had an operating spending freeze. The finance minister may have to look at extending that," Kenney said during an appearance on CTV's "Question Period".

He also said on Global TV's "The West Block" program that the government would balance the budget as pledged, but that "...there may have to be some adjustments on the spending side."

Finance Minister Joe Oliver said on Thursday the government will wait until at least April to present the budget because of market volatility.

The federal budget is usually introduced in February or March, occasionally as early as January, given the fiscal year starts on April 1. But the plunge in oil prices has made it harder to predict government revenues. Canada is a major oil exporter.

Oil prices have fallen 60 percent from their June 2014 peaks, driven down by rising production, particularly of U.S. shale oil, and weaker-than-expected demand in Europe and Asia. (Reporting by Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by Eric Walsh)