September 5, 2013 / 12:39 PM / 5 years ago

Canada softens target for federal debt-to-GDP ratio

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at a news conference announcing plans for tougher laws for sexual criminals, in Toronto August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

(Reuters) - Canada is targeting a federal debt-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio of 25 percent by 2021, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday, a figure that is higher than one outlined in government projections released last year.

Harper, who has pledged to balance the federal budget by 2015, made the announcement at the Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.

He said in a statement the target will help Canada maintain its “advantageous fiscal position”.

But in long-term fiscal projections released late last year, Canada’s finance department forecast the federal debt-to-GDP ratio would fall to 23.8 percent in the 2020/21 fiscal year. In its March 21 budget, the government projected the ratio would be 33.8 percent in 2013/14.

Harper said in the statement the government may consider advancing the targets if the economy is significantly stronger than expected.

(This story corrects first and fourth paragraphs to show projections released in late 2012, not in 2013 budget)

Reporting by Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by Janet Guttsman and; James Dalgleish

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