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Experts, lobbyists begin pre-budget testimony before parliamentary committee

Last Updated Feb 16, 2016 at 8:45 am PST

(iStock Photo)

OTTAWA – A four-day blitz of advice from lobbyists and experts on the upcoming federal budget begins today before a parliamentary committee.

But the struggling economy is expected to take centre stage as the Liberal government prepares its first budget, which is expected late next month.

Stubbornly low commodity prices are expected to carve billions from the government’s bottom line, putting significant pressure on Ottawa as it listens to pre-budget requests from some 90 interest groups.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently acknowledged the 2016-17 deficit would exceed his promised cap of $10 billion.

Trudeau has also cast doubt on the government’s election vow to balance the books in four years.

Conservative finance critic Lisa Raitt is raising doubts about the wisdom of letting the deficit grow in such a fragile economy.

Members of the House of Commons finance committee have noted the compressed consultation process won’t be as complete as in past years due to the brief window before the budget. But several have said it will at least put the recommendations on the public record.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau won’t appear before the committee Thursday as planned, but will instead deliver a pre-budget presentation next Tuesday, said Liberal committee chair Wayne Easter.

The format is designed to leave enough time for officials to write and translate a report on the hearings before the budget’s release.

The committee usually hears from experts and lobby groups in the months leading up to the budget.