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Federal budget to be tabled next month

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will table the next federal budget on Feb. 11, just as Canadians’ focus is on the Sochi Winter Games.

Flaherty made the announcement Monday afternoon during the first question period of the year in the House of Commons as MPs returned from their six-week break.

“Our Conservative government is focused on what matters to Canadians: that is jobs and economic growth,” Flaherty said, reading from a brief statement.

Flaherty said the budget will include “positive measures” to grow the economy, create jobs and keep taxes low. He has remained tight-lipped, however, about what those measures will be.

Earlier Monday, Flaherty had said the government is on track to balance the budget in 2015, as he had previously announced.

“There is no doubt the budget will be balanced in 2015,” Flaherty told reporters after he met with private-sector economists Monday morning. He refused to speculate about whether he could eliminate the deficit before then.

Royal Bank economist Craig Wright said he believes the government could balance the books during the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins in April.

"Our forecast, we would not be shocked to see them come into balance that year if they chose to," Wright told reporters.

When asked whether he will offer goodies to voters in anticipation of a surplus, Flaherty said the government must remain prudent with its spending.

“I’m not going to spend a lot of money,” Flaherty said. “But I’m not the only one who makes these decisions.”

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper during question period whether the budget will contain consumer-friendly measures as outlined in last year’s Throne Speech.

“With the budget approaching, will the prime minister make good on his promise in last fall’s Throne Speech, to rein in basic banking fees and fees at ATMs and on credit cards?” Mulcair asked. “Will the prime minister keep that promise to Canadians, yes or no?”

Harper responded by saying that his government has raised concerns about the effect “of certain banking fees and practices on consumers and small business.”

During his morning news conference, Flaherty also pointed out that last year’s flooding in Alberta cost the federal government about $3 billion, and so he must set funds aside in case of unforeseen expenditures from events such as natural disasters.

“We’re being prudent,” he said.

Flaherty recently told CTV News that the surplus, forecasted at $3.7 billion in the 2015-16 fiscal year, could be greater than anticipated.

However, Liberal strategist Susan Smith said Monday morning that the fact the budget will be tabled in mid-February, when the public's attention will largely be focused on the Sochi Olympics, signals that there won't be much for "Canadians to get excited about."

Flaherty said Monday he will balance the budget without raising Canadians’ taxes.

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