UPDATE 2-Quebec delays balancing its budget; opposition irked

Thu Nov 28, 2013 5:02pm EST
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By Louise Egan

Nov 28 (Reuters) - It will take Quebec two years longer than promised to eliminate its budget deficit, the government of Canada's second-largest provincial economy said on Thursday, earning the rebuke of opposition politicians and raising the prospect of a 2014 election.

The separatist government of predominantly French-speaking Quebec had said it would balance the budget in the current 2013-14 fiscal year, but now expects that to happen in 2015-16, said the provincial finance minister, Nicolas Marceau.

He forecast a budget deficit of C$2.5 billion ($2.4 billion) this year and a shortfall of C$1.75 billion in 2014-15, citing weak growth and disappointing revenues.

Quebec would have had to raise taxes or impose broad spending cuts to achieve its original budget target for this year, Marceau said.

"Given the current economic situation, we could have only dogmatically pursued this objective at the cost of measures that would have inhibited economic growth," he said.

"We are, therefore, making the responsible choice of postponing the return to a balanced budget until 2015."

The two main opposition parties lambasted the governing Parti Quebecois for its handling of the economy, which is seen growing 0.9 percent this year and underperforming the rest of Canada.   Continued...