Business presses Harper for plan on deficit

Mon Jan 18, 2010 4:09pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian business leaders pressed Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday to present a credible plan for getting rid of the country's record budget deficit.

"It needs to be one that's workable and realistic and detailed," Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said after participating in an economic roundtable that Harper had called.

Canada has budgeted a C$55.9 billion ($54.3 billion) deficit for the current fiscal year, the largest in absolute terms though not in comparison with the size of the economy.

The Conservative government says half of that will disappear next year just by winding down its economic stimulus, but opposition parties disagree with the government's contention that economic growth will bridge most of the rest of the budget gap.

Beatty joined the head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Catherine Swift, and the head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, John Manley, in giving their views on what the government should do in the new year.

Swift said it was important that Canada not slip back into "permanent deficit mode".

The consensus appeared to have been that Canadian business was more optimistic this year than last year, even if Swift described the current outlook as a "plodding recovery".

They told Harper the stimulus program should continue to the end of its two years in March 2011, but not beyond. "The consensus was, 'Don't cut it off at this stage...but nothing more'," Swift said.   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in an economic roundtable in his Langevin Block office in Ottawa January 18, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>