Oliver Pledges Tax Cuts in First Canada Finance Speech

Canadian Finance Minister Joe Oliver, appointed March 19 to replace Jim Flaherty, said he’s committed to cutting taxes for families after eliminating the country’s budget deficit next year.

“Once the budget is balanced our priority will be to provide tax relief for hardworking Canadian families,” Oliver said in prepared remarks to the Canadian Club of Toronto today, without being more specific. “That is what we committed to in the last election.”

In a budget introduced Feb. 11, Flaherty projected a deficit of C$2.9 billion ($2.6 billion) in the year that started April 1, which would swing to a surplus of C$6.4 billion next year.

Signs of deflation in Western economies will be on the agenda at meetings of policy makers from the Group of 20 nations this week in Washington, Oliver said. Oliver will also attend the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

“The international economic situation will be a major focus in Washington,” Oliver said. “Things like deflation, which is something we haven’t talked about in Canada for a very long time, are issues that I know they’re going to be talking about.”

European inflation rates below 1 percent carry “certain macroeconomic consequences,” Oliver said, without elaborating.

In Canada, inflation held below the Bank of Canada’s 2 percent target for the 22nd straight month in February, registering 1.1 percent on an annualized basis. Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz has said he can’t rule out loosening monetary policy because of the risks posed by “persistently low” inflation.

New Markets

The former Canadian minister of natural resources said he’ll continue to seek new energy markets in his role as finance minister.

“We must diversify our markets to the burgeoning economies of the Asia Pacific region,” Oliver said in his first public speech as finance minister. Referring to the country’s energy reserves, Oliver said “inadequate infrastructure threatens to strand these resources just when global demand for Canadian energy is soaring.”

The Canadian government must decide whether to approve plans for Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would bring crude from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific Coast, after the country’s energy regulator conditionally approved the project in December.

“We need to discuss our domestic issues of skill shortage and infrastructure and productivity and how that is addressed in our fiscal framework,” Oliver said. He told the audience the government will not introduce “reckless new spending schemes.”

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