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Taking Flaherty to task, Liberals vow to pare back deficit

Liberal deputy leader Ralph Goodale speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Oct. 7, 2010.


The Liberals will promise to make eliminating the deficit a key priority as they outline parts of their economic platform Monday.

Michael Ignaiteff's team will commit to a deficit-to-GDP target of 1 per cent within two years of taking office and say that rate would continue to decline until the shortfall is erased. Three senior Liberal MPs are delivering speeches on the economy Monday, with events planned in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.

Taking a page out of the Stephen Harper media playbook, the Liberals are holding simultaneous events in different cities. Deficit elimination, learning, health care, pensions, jobs and Canada's role in the world are the major themes.

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The Harper government has been using the same media tactic of late when it wants to bring attention to a file, most recently when cabinet ministers fanned out across the country for media events boasting the merits of the government's planned fighter-jet purchase.

Monday's events are a direct rebuttal to Jim Flaherty's recent economic update, as well as the Finance Minister's recent speech to a business audience in Ottawa in which he warned of the dangers of a Liberal-led coalition.

Mr. Ignatieff's deputy, Ralph Goodale, will be at Ottawa's Chateau Laurier- the site of Mr. Flaherty's speech - to deliver a speech titled: "Hope for families and leadership for Canada's future: What the Finance Minister should have said."

Liberal finance critic Scott Brison will speak to the same theme in a speech to Toronto's Empire Club of Canada and industry critic Marc Garneau will speak to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce.

Since Parliament resumed in September, Mr. Ignatieff has primarily led off Question Period with questions related to the economy and finance. Last week, Mr. Flaherty revealed that the government's budget deficit hit a record $55.6-billion last year, which is higher than what the government had originally estimated in the March, 2010, budget.

Mr. Ignatieff has recently acknowledged that the size of the deficit will force his party to reconsider the scope of past Liberal campaign promises in areas like national child care because of their expense.

The Liberal deficit pledge is not much different from what Mr. Flaherty promised in his fiscal update. That document forecasts Canada's deficit as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product to go from 2.8 per cent this year, 1.8 per cent next year, 1.2 per cent in 2012-13 and declining further until the numbers return to balance in 2015-2016.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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