Quebecers fret on economy ahead of March 19 budget

Sun Mar 8, 2009 1:41pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Consultations ahead of Quebec's 2009 budget show increasing concern about the economy and readiness to allow the French-speaking province to accept a deficit, a finance ministry statement said on Sunday.

"Given the current financial situation, the majority of participants agree that the government should temporarily return to a deficit provided that it is not of a structural nature," said the statement, which set a March 19 budget date.

"Moreover, a big majority of the participants believe that a reduction in spending must be one of the government's priorities."

However, the statement also singled out infrastructure spending, energy policy, green technologies and environmental protection as possible priorities.

Most Canadian provinces are set to record a deficit this year as they boost spending to cope with a rapidly slowing economy. The federal budget has also moved to deficit, robbing Canada of its record as the last member of the Group of Seven industrialized countries where the budget remained in surplus.

(Reporting by Janet Guttsman; Editing by Bernard Orr)