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Slim government moves toward balanced budget

The Canadian government will continue to practice restraint as it gets its fiscal house in order for a predicted balanced budget in two years.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, in presenting the federal budget, said dramatic cuts to program expenses will continue as the government shuffles priorities and reallocates resources.

The reward will be a balanced budget in 2015, the first since 2008, and be just in time for the Conservatives to campaign on their achievement for an expected election that year.

There are projections the deficit for the current fiscal year will be $25.9 billion, up from $21.1 billion projected by Flaherty in the budget a year ago.

The government plans to revamp its job-skills training to better meet employers' needs; promote manufacturing development; begin a renewed 10-year fund for infrastructure spending; reduce import tariffs on hockey equipment and baby clothing; and crack down on tax cheaters with offshore accounts.

Canadians need to realize the government "will be a benign and silent partner in their enterprise, not an overbearing behemoth squeezing them at every turn," Flaherty said.

Young Trudeau could help Liberals — poll

An opinion poll suggests Canada could turn back to a federal Liberal government should the party select Justin Trudeau, 41, to be its next leader.

The Forum Research poll showed the Liberals, under the son of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, would be able to replace the Conservatives, although with a minority government if an election were held today.

The Liberals are currently in third place in the Commons behind the Opposition New Democrats and ruling Conservatives.

The poll shows the Trudeau Liberals would receive 39 percent of the vote, compared with 32 percent for the Conservatives and 20 percent for the New Democrats.

Liberals will choose their new leader on April 14, with Trudeau by far the frontrunner, and an election is not due for two years.

News in brief

• Calgary has edged out Ottawa, the nation's capital, as the best place to live in Canada, in an annual survey by MoneySense magazine. Editor Jonathan Chevreau said Calgary is indicative of "how well" Western Canada did in the survey, with five Alberta cities among the top 10. Helping Calgary to earn first place is its abundance of jobs tied to energy industries.

• There were two near collisions involving vehicles on runways and airplanes at Toronto's Pearson International Airport and Hamilton International Airport. In Toronto, a driver-less van rolled onto an active runway as an Air Canada jet was preparing to land. The second incident, both of which are being investigated by the Transportation Safety Board, involved a Kelowna Flightcraft Boeing 727 and two snowplows clearing the runways.

• Friends are saying the health of former Alberta premier and Calgary mayor Ralph Klein is deteriorating rapidly. The 70-year-old Klein has lived in a long-term care facility since October 2011 and is suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and dementia.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar was lower Friday at 97.80 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback was worth $1.0224 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.

Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,772 points and the TSX Venture index 1,103 points.

Lotto 6-49: (March 20) 9, 14, 24, 43, 45 and 46; bonus 22. (March 27) 4, 14, 16, 25, 45 and 47; bonus 27. Lotto Max: (March 15) 9, 16, 17, 19, 22, 41 and 43; bonus 12.

Regional briefs

• Blinding snow and icy roads led to crashes involving more than 100 vehicles on Highway 2, south of Edmonton, on Thursday. One man was seriously hurt among 102 people receiving medical attention. Also that day northwest of Edmonton, a woman and two children were killed in a head-on with a truck near Flatbush during a blizzard. The truck driver, who was also injured, was arrested for dangerous driving causing death.

• Police divers have recovered the body of a 32-year-old woman whose van crashed through a barrier gate, onto a docked BC Ferries boat and into the water near Gabriola Island. The name of the woman, who was alone in the vehicle at the time and is from the island, wasn't being released.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

Slim government moves toward balanced budget 03/23/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 22, 2013 5:07pm]
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