Federal budget date set for Feb. 11, Jim Flaherty says

The federal budget will be tabled on Tuesday, Feb. 11, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced in the House of Commons Monday afternoon.

Conservative government on track to balance budget in 2015

Expanding high-speed internet access in rural areas was a Stephen Harper campaign promise in the 2008 election. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The federal budget will be tabled on Tuesday, Feb. 11, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced in the House of Commons Monday afternoon. 

Earlier in the day, Flaherty announced the government is on track to balance the budget in 2015, following a meeting with private-sector economists. 

"We are doing this without raising taxes, we are doing it without cutting transfers to hospitals, to social services, to education in the provinces, unlike the previous government,"​ Flaherty said. 

"And we have not cut spending on social programs."

The finance minister didn't give any indication about what the government would spend money on once it heads into surplus territory, which will coincide with the next federal election.

Flaherty has made it clear he's not a big spender. 

"We always have to make sure that we — as my mother would say — save for a rainy day."

But he also indicated he's not the only person who makes these decisions. 

"There is some in our caucus perhaps who would spend more than we would."

Strong U.S. dollar 'good for Canadians'

The issue of a low Canadian dollar was raised by reporters.

Though Flaherty refused to speak outright about the slide of the loonie, he said one of clear factor is the relative strength of the U.S. dollar. 

"[The United States] are our biggest trading partners. That's good news."

Pressed further about the implications for price disparity and if it will affect cross-border shopping, Flaherty was a bit more ambivalent. 

"I guess it does. There's a lot of shopping now that takes place online and we'll see." 

A number of the private-sector economists who met with Flaherty earlier on Monday also addressed the media.

Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, said the Canadian dollar sitting at about 90 cents US is "relatively close to what we could consider to be fair value." He said the Canadian dollar was actually overvalued the last couple of years.

Porter said it was due to Canada's triple-A rating and being seen as "one of those special countries among foreign investors that were largely unscathed by the financial devastation" in 2008. 

"But now as the U.S. and Europe are starting to get back on their feet again, we're seeing less of that safety bit, so Canada is seen now as a little less special," Porter said.

Budget to be tabled during Olympics

NDP finance critic Peggy Nash scoffed at the date the government plans to table the budget, which will happen as the world's athletes gather in Sochi.

"Clearly, they are hoping that Canadians will pay more attention to the Olympics than the Conservatives' financial management," Nash said in a phone interview with CBC News.

Nash also said the government is still not doing enough to address the concerns of middle-class families, who are "drowning in household debt" and "struggling with affordability." 

"Canadians want the government to balance the books," Nash said. "But not at the cost of jobs and growth."

In December, Canada lost 45,900 jobs. That monthly drop in full-time work is the largest seen since late 2011.

With regards to the loonie, Nash said a weaker dollar could be advantageous for exporters.

However, she noted that there have been significant job losses in the manufacturing sector and any changes that occur are not going to happen overnight.

"I don't see this as a panacea for value-added jobs," Nash said.

The budget is the centrepiece of the government agenda as Parliament returns for its winter sitting. The Conservatives are determined to eliminate the federal deficit by the time voters go to the polls in 2015.

In his economic update in November, Flaherty projected a deficit of $5.5 billion for 2014-15, followed by a surplus of $3.7 billion for 2015-16.

With files from The Canadian Press


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