Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks to a reporter on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Photo: Patrick Doyle/Reuters)"We think these are the right measures to take at a time where we're experiencing regional differences in our economic situation with some regions experiencing positive situations and some regions as a result largely, but not exclusively, of changes in the price of oil experiencing difficult situations," Morneau said.
Child benefit problematic: ToriesThe Opposition Conservatives had raised concerns that the design of the new child benefit could lead to problems for divorced parents over how they calculate support payments. Morneau said the payments aren't considered income for tax reasons and it replaces two existing benefits, meaning there isn't a significant change and shouldn't have any effect on how child support payments are calculated. "Given that there's no change, we don't believe that this is an area of significant discussion. It will not be included in income and will not affect child support payments for divorced parents," Morneau told the Commons finance committee. Morneau's appearance at the Commons committee was the second time in the day opposition parties had a chance to press the Liberals about their spending plans and recently released financial figures that showed the government would run a deficit in the most recent fiscal year.
Who created the deficit?Figures released Friday by the Finance Department showed a $9 billion deficit in federal spending for March, a figure that put the government on track for a deficit overall of about $2 billion, not including year-end adjustments and a back-dated $3.7 billion spent on veterans benefits. The Conservatives said the books were in the black when they left office and the Liberals squandered what was left behind through changes to tax system that dropped revenues. Government spending tends to rise in March as departments scramble to spend funds and wrap up projects, and revenues tend to fall. Morneau told the House of Commons on Monday that what happened this year was the same as what happened in previous years, "only worse." "The measures put in place by the previous government led revenues to go down in the end of the year, leaving us with a deficit," Morneau said during question period. "We are starting with a deficit left by the previous government and now we're making efforts to really improve our situation going forward."
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