Finding $4 billion to cut from the federal government's $80 billion in program expenses is no big deal, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Tuesday.
Speaking on CBC News Network the morning after unveiling his latest budget in the House of Commons, Flaherty denied the cuts were anything like the ones he took part in while a minister in the Ontario government of Mike Harris, which touched off outrage across the province.
no big deal. This is not massive, this is not that significant. It’s not easy, of course, it’s hard work, but certainly, it can be accomplished."
On Monday, Flaherty presented the updated version of the federal budget that led to the defeat of the government and the May 2 election.
Looking at productivity
He said Treasury Board President Tony Clement would lead a review of the annual $80 billion in program spending, with a goal of shaving five per cent from that budget, eventually resulting in $4 billion in annual savings by the time the cuts fully take effect in 2014-2015.
"We're going to say to departments, 'Show us a percentage that you can reduce by in terms of the cost of doing what you do.' And this the private sector does all the time. It's nothing novel, nothing new.
"It's just something governments don't tend to do. They don't look at their own productivity. We ask the private sector to be more productive all the time, but we don't look at our own house. So we're about to do that."
He warned that government programs will be cut in order to balance the books by 2014-2015, a year earlier than previously forecast.
"We're going to be looking at what it costs to administer the government, and that hasn't been done in 15 years in Ottawa," Flaherty told the CBC's Heather Hiscox. "I think it's about time."
Message for U.S. and Europe
The updated budget includes all of the measures contained in the one tabled in March, plus the two additions Flaherty identified earlier: $2.2 billion for an HST compensation deal for Quebec and a commitment to phase out the per-vote subsidy for political parties.
Flaherty also said European countries and the United States need to get a grip on their debt situations.
"These are issues that we need to put pressure on the Europeans to deal with, their sovereign debt issues," he said.
"As well, the United States needs to develop a plan, a medium and long-term plan, that will have world confidence to deal with its deficit and debt issues."