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Federal budget due in two weeks

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Finance Minister Paul Martin says he will bring down his first budget in almost two years on Dec. 1...


OTTAWA, Ont. — Finance Minister Paul Martin says he will bring down his first budget in almost two years on Dec. 10.

According to an announcement made at the Ontario Trucking Association’s annual convention by Transport Minister David Collenette, Martin will focus on beefing up Canadian security following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

The bulk of any new federal spending will likely come in security-related measures that could be worth as much as $3 billion over five years. That could include about $1 billion for the military plus more money for police and tighter airport security.

Martin will also update his forecasts for the shrinking federal surplus and report on how the country is faring as the worldwide economy slows.

Other sources indicate Martin will also reduce employment insurance premiums further, even though that will cut about $400 million from revenues.

Martin revealed the date in the House of Commons under prodding by the Opposition. Canadian Alliance finance critic Jason Kenney had accused the government of standing idly by while the Canadian economy is drawn into a global slowdown.

“Tens of thousands of Canadians are losing their jobs, the economy is in its second quarter of a contraction, the loonie has sunk to an all-time low, our standard of living continues to lag behind our major competitors,” says Kenney.

Martin accused Kenney of “fear-mongering” and “rhetorical flourishes.”

“The government’s budget, to be presented in this House on the 10th of December will, in fact, be the perfect antidote to the fear-mongering of the Opposition,” the minister says.

Alliance Leader Stockwell Day said Martin must focus on security issues, more money for the Armed Forces, and continued tax relief. He also noted that the auditor general listed hundreds of millions of dollars in wasteful spending which has to be cleaned up and replaced by “high-priority spending.”

The timing of the budget will make Martin’s task harder than usual. With the U.S. — Canada’s largest trading partner — officially in recession, he will have limited space to play with the figures.


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