Harper says budget deficit won't last

Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:13pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will be able to get rid of its fiscal deficit in five years and some financial experts say this can be accomplished even earlier, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday.

Harper, answering questions in an interview on YouTube (www.youtube.com/talkcanada), said this could be done with fiscal restraint, as laid out in this month's budget, without resorting to raising taxes.

"A lot of experts have commented on our fiscal plan, and frankly, as far as I've seen, they are virtually all in agreement that these measures are sufficient to come out of deficit to avoid a permanent or structural deficit," Harper said.

"In fact, some of the experts in the big financial institutions actually went so far as to say that the government is being overly cautious, that we could actually come out of deficit sooner."

Parliament's budget officer, Kevin Page, has been a notable exception, arguing that Canada faces a structural deficit.

It was Harper's first interview on YouTube, though last week a speech to Parliament was livestreamed on the video sharing website. Based on questions submitted by Canadians, it was conducted by Patrick Pichette, a Canadian who is the chief financial officer at Google Inc, which owns YouTube.

"Canadians are turning to new media in increasing numbers. Social media allows Canadians to have unfiltered and immediate access to information," said Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas.

Harper said he did not agree with economists who say the deficit can be eliminated in less than five years, but Canada was in much better shape than its main industrial partners.

"We've got a strong fiscal position in Canada, we've been in a position to deliver some of the largest stimulus programs in the world during this recession, but we are also in a position to come out of this deficit quickly, unlike most countries," he said.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Chris Wilson)

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper replies to a question after delivering his response to the Speech from the Throne in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in this March 11, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>