Quebec denies report it may mull delay to balanced budget

Fri Apr 19, 2013 10:48am EDT
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* Quebec govt denies any plan to delay budget balance

* Newspaper says premier was testing the water

* Province in November pledged 2013-14 budget balance

OTTAWA, April 19 (Reuters) - The Quebec newspaper La Presse said on Friday that the provincial government might have to delay its return to a balanced budget, an assertion the office of Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau strongly denied.

The newspaper said Quebec Premier Pauline Marois on Monday asked a group of business executives how they would react if the struggling economy forced her to abandon the objective of balancing the budget in 2013-14.

It sourced its report to one or more participants in the meeting.

But Marceau spokeswoman Melanie Malenfant dismissed the idea of delaying the plan to eliminate the budget deficit in 2013-14.

"There is absolutely no question of changing course. The government is proceeding as planned. There is no question of delaying, abandoning or changing in any way the plan to return to a balanced budget," she told Reuters.

"The budget of the Quebec government is based on forecasts that are realistic and founded on the forecasts of the big financial institutions."

The Quebec government pledged in November to balance the budget by 2013-14 through spending restraint and higher taxes on the rich.

La Presse said several participants in the meeting with Marois underlined the sacrifices already being made in the French-speaking province, suggesting a second round of austerity would not be welcome.