Flaherty to meet opposition over budget

Fri Dec 12, 2008 1:09pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's minority Conservative government, under pressure to produce a stimulus-rich budget next month, will hold talks with the main opposition Liberal Party on Monday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Friday.

The Liberals indicated they had doubts about how useful the meeting would be, saying they wanted Flaherty to produce accurate details about the state of the economy. He presented a fiscal update last month that many economists dismissed as unrealistic.

The opposition parties last week signed a coalition deal to bring down the government as soon as they could but signs are emerging that tensions might slowly be easing.

"I am prepared to listen to the views of the coalition," Flaherty told a televised news conference in Saint John, New Brunswick.

"There will be a meeting on Monday in Toronto with members of the Liberal Party and I will be there to listen to their views," he said, adding that he hoped the Liberals would present a plan on Monday.

The budget is due to be delivered on January 27. Opposition parties say the plan should contain major stimulus measures, an approach the government says it backs.

"It's quite clear that infrastructure is a very good way to stimulate the economy ... We can invest more in infrastructure but it needs to be fast," said Flaherty, repeating that Ottawa planned to spend C$6 billion ($4.8 billion) on infrastructure projects next year.

The Liberals said they were still unhappy with November's fiscal update, which predicted that Ottawa would stay in the black for the next five years if it did not take any stimulus measures.   Continued...