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Industry Minister James Moore defends Conservative plan to balance budget rather than run deficit as part of stimulus package.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Canadian government is promising measures in the looming 2015 budget to spur manufacturing as well as a "serious commitment" to job-creating infrastructure spending in the face of signs the country's economy is now struggling.

Ottawa dispatched Industry Minister James Moore in recent days to defend the government's record on economic stewardship amid criticism the Tories have failed to do enough.

"Stephen Harper's government has delivered on infrastructure and will continue to," Mr. Moore told Global News.

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Speaking to CTV News, he said: "I think you're going to see some very large-scale announcements in every part of the country to the benefit of productivity, to the benefit of infrastructure and to the benefit of the quality of life of everyday Canadians."

Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver will unveil the budget on April 21.

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz last week underscored how much the decline in oil prices has hurt Canada, a damaging decline that will make it harder for the Conservatives to justify their focus on slaying the deficit rather than priming the economy.

"The first quarter of 2015 will look atrocious, because the oil shock is a big deal for us," Mr. Poloz told a British newspaper on March 30. "In theory, lower oil prices mean more money in consumers' pockets, but … if an oil company cancels [an investment] project, laying off a worker, that guy will not have the money to buy a new pickup truck. That spreads pretty quickly."

Mr. Moore defended the Conservative plan to balance the budget rather than run a deficit as part of a stimulus spending package, as critics suggested.

"We are challenged," he told CTV.

"But I think it's quite clear that the most important thing that we can do … is to keep our fiscal house in order to give the government of Canada the flexibility that we need to react effectively … if it's through tax relief or focused spending measures that will boost the Canadian economy in certain parts of the country."

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The minister also signalled Ottawa has measures in store for Canada's hard-hit manufacturing sector, which lost 20,000 jobs in February.

"You can look for some measures in the budget that will speak to manufacturing, that will certainly support that sector so that we can have some long-term prosperity and growth in that part of the economy," he said.

Former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin said Saturday that Ottawa should be making infrastructure, education and research the priority instead of restraint.

"If you don't invest in the future," Mr. Martin told CBC Radio, "you will be running perpetual deficits."

Municipal leaders from across Canada have been publicly lobbying the Conservatives to increase infrastructure spending. While the Tories boast of major investments in recent years, critics note that spending ramps up slowly.

Mr. Moore was tight-lipped on how much more money the Tories plan to invest in infrastructure. But he suggested Conservatives are the only party that seems to care about eliminating the deficit.

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"The other opposition parties who have criticized every difficult decision that our government has made to drive at a balanced budget have no plan to balance the budget and frankly don't even ask questions in Parliament about getting to a balanced budget," the minister told Global.

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