Joe Oliver says budget will be balanced despite PBO forecast

Finance minister says room was built into spring budget to account for economic downturn

OTTAWA – Finance Minister Joe Oliver has re-affirmed his government’s commitment to balance its books, two days after the federal budget watchdog warned a slower-than-expected economy will keep Ottawa in the red this year.

In a letter to Liberal finance critic Scott Brison, Oliver says there was room built into the spring budget to account for an economic downturn.

But he’s not saying whether he’ll provide an update of the government’s fiscal projections.

The letter, which is laden with Conservative party talking points, notes the federal treasury reported a $3.9 billion surplus in April and May of this year.

And Oliver repeats what he’s been saying for months — that the government remains on track for a balanced budget this year.

The minister’s comments came in response to a request from Brison, who asked for the finance department’s latest budgetary projections in light of the new Parliamentary Budget Office report.

That report, based on a downgraded Bank of Canada economic forecast, warned that Ottawa could see a budget deficit in the current fiscal year of $1 billion.

The calculation raised doubts about the governing Conservatives’ insistence that there’ll be an election-year surplus.

Brison has said he can’t say with certainty that the Liberal party, if elected to govern, will produce a balanced budget this year without updated numbers from finance.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says the slump will make balancing the budget a bit more difficult this year.

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