05/11/2012 04:16 EDT | Updated 07/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Stephen Harper: Equalization Payment Plan Likely To See Few Changes When It Expires In 2014


EDMUNDSTON, N.B. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he doesn't anticipate major changes coming to the federal equalization program, which is set to expire in two years.

The federal-wealth sharing program is set to end in 2014, and provincial governments are positioning themselves now to negotiate a new deal.

After a local funding announcement Friday in Edmundston, N.B., Harper was asked whether he felt a national debate on equalization was needed.

"There is always a debate on equalization," he quipped. "I've never seen it stop at any point in my political life."

The program, which is worth $15.4 billion this fiscal year, is meant to ensure all Canadians have access to comparable public services wherever they live. Six provinces are collecting equalization this year: Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.

"We're in discussion with the provinces about their various preferences — on which the provinces are not of a single mind," Harper said.

"I don't anticipate major changes to the program as we move forward."

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