By Paul Vieira
OTTAWA--Canada is pledging 5.8 billion Canadian dollars ($5.2 billion) in additional cash over the next three years for infrastructure upgrades across the country, amid an improving budget outlook and ahead of a national election set for next year.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his Conservative government will spend the funds on border crossings, airports and rail service, laboratories and the repair of schools on aboriginal reserves, with disbursement beginning this fiscal year. The spending will stoke job creation, he said Monday, adding the government also aims to cut commuting times for people who travel from suburbs into cities to work.
"We are ahead of track in terms of balancing the budget next year," Mr. Harper said at an event in London, Ontario. "This gives us flexibility to make additional investments ahead of schedule."
The government has said Ottawa is on track to record a budget surplus in the fiscal year beginning next April of C$1.9 billion, positioning it as one of the few governments in the industrialized world to enjoy such a fiscal position. The governing Conservatives ran up a relatively large deficit at the height of the global financial crisis, of C$55.60 billion, as it made significant infrastructure investments to mitigate the economic downturn.
The Canadian government's improved fiscal profile prompted Mr. Harper last month to introduce C$26.8 billion in tax breaks, targeted at households with young children, over a six-year period ending March 31, 2020. Among the measures is the chance for couples split income for tax purposes, which fulfills a promise Mr. Harper made in the 2011 national campaign in which he secured a majority mandate in parliament.
Mr. Harper faces re-election next year, and a national vote must be held no later than October 2015. For nearly 18 months, Mr. Harper and the Conservative Party have trailed in public opinion polls, although in recent weeks the governing party's polling numbers have improved.
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