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11-010-XIB
Canadian Economic Observer
April 2004

Economic events in March

Canada

The federal government budget forecast increased program spending of 4.4% to $147.9 billion and a $4 billion surplus. Other highlights include a GST credit for cities worth $7 billion over ten years, $1 billion in mad-cow compensation and plans to sell off its remaining $3 billion stake in Petro-Canada.

Alberta unveiled its $22.6 billion budget with spending increases for health and education and a small surplus. Saskatchewan forecast a $223 million deficit, with increased spending for health and education, higher taxes and 400 job cuts.

Quebec balanced its $ 54.1 billion budget due to cutbacks in program spending, the sale of $880 million in assets and a delay of tax cuts to 2005. Health care received $1 billion in additional funds.

Newfoundland projected a deficit of $840 million on expenditures of $4.1 billion, cut 4,000 jobs over the next four years, and raised tobacco taxes. New Brunswick forecast a small surplus, with expenditures of $5.7 billion next year and the reduction of 750 civil service jobs. PEI estimated a $33 million deficit on $1.06 billion of expenditures.

The Bank of Canada trimmed the Bank Rate by one-quarter of a percentage point to 2.25%.

A 29-day strike by 5,000 CN Rail workers ended with a new contract providing a 3% wage increase for each of three years. CN estimated a loss of $35 to $40 million in profit as shipments were delayed.

Enbridge Gas received approval to raise natural gas prices for households by 14% on April 1.

Bombardier announced a major restructuring for its rail division, with the layoff of almost one-fifth of the unit’s work force (6,600 jobs globally, 680 in Canada) and the closing of seven plants in Europe.

World

China’s central bank announced it would raise its interest rate for loans to banks by nearly two-thirds of a percentage point and require the weakest banks to hold larger reserves.

In March, 415 people died from terrorist attacks around the world, the most since September 2001. The worst attacks were in Spain.



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