Emergency rooms may be crowded and potholes may be rattling jawbones on city streets but Finance Minister Ralph Goodale says Canadians will be content to see Ottawa apply its whopping $9.1 billion surplus to debt reduction.
Goodale announced the surprisingly large federal surplus Wednesday to a chorus of critics accusing the government of failing arithmetic or deliberately short-changing taxpayers to stealthily build a debt-reduction fund.
The 2003-04 surplus - almost five times greater than the $1.9 billion expected - could have been used to cut taxes, boost health and social spending, even share with cities to help repair crumbling roads and sewers, critics said.
But Goodale said Canadians appreciate the fact the Liberal government has already pledged more than $40 billion in new health spending over 10 years, trimmed taxes and can now reduce Ottawa's debt to just over $501 billion, thanks to its seventh consecutive surplus.
"(Canadians) will remember a balanced approach. . .that this is the best fiscal performance by any Canadian government since Confederation and is the best in the G-7," leading industrial nations, said Goodale.