Harper says $5B surplus shows finances ‘well ahead of projections

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Stephen Harper said Friday that a $5-billion federal surplus reported for the second quarter “shows we’re actually well ahead of our projections.”Harper made the comments in an short interview he gave to a Muslim TV station after addressing Canada’s biggest Islamic convention, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at.

“We’ve been saying all along that the budget will be balanced this year,” Harper told MTA International, after speaking to a crowd in Mississauga, Ont.“You’ve got the opposition out there trying to convince people the budget isn’t balanced,” he added. “The reason they’re trying to convince people of that is because they want to run deficits and raise taxes.”

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The Department of Finance’s monthly Fiscal Monitor reported the $5-billion surplus for the April-to-June period on Friday. Nearly 40 per cent of the gain was attributed to the government’s one-time sale of General Motors shares.Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, said he was surprised by the size of the reported surplus, given the weakness of the economy.However, he cautioned, “We are still many months away from pronouncing on a budgetary balance for the year.”Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Thursday he would run “modest” deficits for three years and invest $125 billion over 10 years in infrastructure. The budget would be balanced by 2019, he said.Trudeau appeared Friday in Montreal alongside former prime minister and finance minister Paul Martin, who balanced the country’s books in 1997 after nearly two decades of federal deficits.

Martin called Harper “the king of deficits” and said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair “is now a student of Stephen Harper’s economy.”Harper’s government ran seven deficits in a row, before announcing earlier this year that the budget had been balanced.Mulcair committed earlier this week to balancing his first budget if elected, in part by cancelling income splitting for families.Mulcair, who was also campaigning in Montreal, shot back at Martin, calling him “the king of austerity” and pointing out he achieved balance only after cutting health and social transfers, employment insurance and housing spending.Toronto Liberal candidate Bill Blair told CTV’s Power Play Friday that Trudeau is “being honest and being bold” with his plan to hold off on balancing the budget until 2019.

“He’s prepared to make investments that are going to change the future of this country and build a better quality of life for all citizens,” Blair said.Toronto NDP candidate Peggy Nash told Power Play that the surplus announced Friday is only one quarter’s result, adding “I think Canadians know we’re in uncertain times.”

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