Canada's new finance minister pledges tax cut in debut speech

Mon Apr 7, 2014 1:02pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's new finance minister, Joe Oliver, promised on Monday to cut taxes for families once the budget is balanced, giving no details and sticking to the Conservative government's longstanding script in his first major speech in the new role.

Oliver, previously the government's energy minister and pitch man for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, was appointed as finance minister on March 19. He replaces Jim Flaherty, who served for eight years under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Speaking to a business audience in Toronto, Oliver repeated his predecessor's main message: low taxes and fiscal conservatism are here to stay.

"Once the budget is balanced our priority will be to provide tax relief for hardworking Canadian families," Oliver said in the prepared text of the speech.

"That is what we committed to in the last election, that is what we have delivered, and that is what we are going to continue to do," he said.

He warned detractors not to "expect a big stimulus program."

The federal budget is on track to reach a surplus in time for an October 2015 election. In the 2011 election campaign, Harper promised a big tax break for couples with children, saying they would be allowed to split their income for tax purposes.

But that idea has since been thrown into doubt. Just before stepping down, Flaherty questioned whether the measure would benefit society overall, suggesting a split in the Conservative ranks. There were also media reports that Harper was having second thoughts as well.

Oliver has so far avoided saying anything more specific than that there will be tax cuts benefiting families.   Continued...

Canada's Finance Minister Joe Oliver speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 31, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie