MARCH 1 2012 16:29h

Minister: Canada's budget faces more cuts

Minister: Canada

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OTTAWA, March 1 (UPI) -- The Canadian Conservative government's budget this month will include "relatively small spending reductions," the finance minister said in Ottawa.

Jim Flaherty announced he would present the coming year's $265 billion budget to Parliament March 29 and said fiscal cost cutting was only one element of it, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Thursday.

"We're talking about relatively small spending reductions, certainly nothing more than moderate spending reductions in a budget of that size," the finance minister said.

Flaherty said the budget wouldn't go into minute detail about austerity measures, Postmedia News reported.

Almost 70 federal departments were told last year to outline how to reduce their costs by as much as 8 percent, and cuts to the public service sector are inevitable as a result, the reports said.

Various national media reported widespread, but unsubstantiated concerns the Conservative budget would also push back the eligibility age for Old Age Security benefits to 67 from 65. Flaherty didn't comment on the pension issue.

Economists disagree on the amount of Canada's national debt, from a worst-case scenario of $31 billion down to $24 billion. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has said the goal is to balance the budget by 2015-2016.