Canada extends deadline for stimulus program

Thu Dec 2, 2010 2:52pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will extend the deadline to complete projects funded by its two-year C$48 billion ($48 billion) stimulus program by seven months, to help offset a slowing economy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday.

The government will now cut off projects on Oct 31, 2011. It initially said all projects had to be finished by March 31, 2011, prompting complaints from local authorities who said they needed more time.

Harper said the government was concerned that the rate of growth in Canada was starting to slow significantly.

"There's obviously, in the current environment, no harm to allowing more time to complete the infrastructure projects and keep some of those people working a bit longer," he told a news conference in Mississauga, Ontario.

The stimulus program was introduced early last year to offset the worst of the recession. Some opposition legislators want to expand it, but Harper said this was not an option.

"As this applies to projects already approved, there will be no additional cost to taxpayers," he said, adding that around 90 percent of projects would be finished by March 31.

Canada has been hit by the high value of the Canadian dollar, the after-effects of the global recession and weak demand in the United States.

Harper said the government remained "cautiously optimistic" on the economy, but there were considerable global risks.   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper (L) and Sheridan College President Jeff Zabudsky tour the construction site of the new college campus in Mississauga December 2, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>