OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper is warning that Canadians face “tough choices” and to brace for the challenging economic year ahead.
“There are tough, important choices that must be made to create jobs, keep our economy growing and keep Canada as the greatest country in the world,” Harper says in a letter to Conservatives MPs and senators.
“We must make those choices — choices that will lead to greater prosperity — but we must make them together with the Canadian people,” he said in the letter that was released Sunday.
Harper said he will be dispatching cabinet ministers across the country to hear the views of Canadians as the government enters the final stages of preparing its belt-tightening budget, called the “Economic Action Plan 2012.”
That budget, likely in February or March, will lay out the government’s strategy to trim at least $4 billion a year in spending as the Conservatives seek to rein in the deficit. Those spending reductions are expected to mean cuts in government staffing and programs.
So far, the government belt-tightening plans have been sketched out behind closed doors, overseen by a special cabinet committee led by Treasury Board President Tony Clement. It’s been evaluating proposals from federal departments outlining the impact of 5 and 10 per cent cuts to their budgets.
But now Harper says he wants the views of “entrepreneurs, workers, small businesses and ordinary hard-working Canadians” before finalizing the budget.
In addition to tackling spending, Harper said the upcoming budget will focus on five other priorities: expanding trade and opening new markets; investing in research and development; boosting skills training; cutting red tape; and keeping taxes low.
In the letter’s introduction, Harper reflects on 2011, the year that brought him his long-sought majority and the economic challenges facing the country for the next 12 months.
“2011 was quite a year. Canadians entrusted us with a strong, stable, national, majority Conservative Government and we have delivered (lol),” the Prime Minister writes.
He says that the economy will continue to be the government’s focus for 2012.
“With the ongoing economic instability in Europe and the continued slow economic growth in the United States, it is clear the global economy is still very fragile,” he said in his letter.
“Too many Canadians are still rightly concerned about their jobs, their savings and their family budgets,” he said.
Canada News: Stephen Harper wants public input before 2012 budget - TORONTO STAR