The federal government is on track to eliminate the budget deficit by autumn 2015, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Friday, as Statistics Canada reported that Canada gained 51,000 new jobs in February.

Most of those jobs were full-time, in the private sector and in Ontario -- the province hardest hit by the economic turndown.

British Columbia added 19,800 jobs.

“The breadth of the employment numbers is fairly encouraging,” Craig Wright, RBC chief economist, told CTV’s Power Play on Friday.

Quebec, on the other hand, had the biggest loss, shedding 13,000 jobs.

Also, youth unemployment remains persistently high at just under 14 per cent.

Flaherty said his upcoming budget will contain measures to help young Canadians find work, particularly training for high-demand jobs in trades.

He also indicated one of the government’s priorities would be matching skills of the unemployed with available jobs, an initiative that currently costs the government about $2.5 million.

“We've got to do a better job of connecting the skills people have, the education people have, with the jobs that are available in Canada,” he said. “What we are looking at though is outcomes. Are we seeing the kind of employment and outcomes that we expected to see? What is the degree of accountability?”

Meanwhile, General Motors is pouring more than $250 million into its assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, a move Flaherty called “a welcome investment in Canada.”


With economic growth projections ranging from 1.5 per cent to a 1.8 per cent, Flaherty admitted that Canada would take a “significant” hit “on the revenue side.

But he said the government plans to take measures such as closing tax loopholes and controlling spending in order to balance the budget by the next federal election.

"We will manage it," Flaherty said. "The key is looking forward to the next two years and making sure we stay on track. There's a number of measures we can take to do that and you'll see them in the budget."

Raising taxes or cutting transfer payments to provinces are not among those options, Flaherty insisted.

Flaherty met earlier with private sector economists to get their final forecast before completing the budget, which he is expected to announce by the end of March.

Critics within the opposition party have slammed the government’s plans, with NDP finance critic Peggy Nash saying the feds should focus on economic stimuli as opposed to making "more reckless cuts."

According to analysts, there is no pressing need to balance the books by the 2015 deadline if the deficit continues to fall, however Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2011 campaign promised to cut taxes on families and double tax-free savings accounts once the budget gap is closed.

With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife and files from The Canadian Press