Prime Minister Stephen Harper is dismissing demands from opposition parties to cancel planned corporate tax cuts ahead of his government's tabling of the budget.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canadians are just starting to see the economic benefits of keeping corporate tax rates low. ((Graham Hughes/Canadian Press))

Meanwhile, Liberal finance critic Scott Brison said he's "not hopeful" the Conservatives' upcoming budget will contain enough measures for his party to support, further suggesting Canadians could be going to the polls in the spring.

The prime minister, speaking to reporters on Friday in Welland, Ont., insisted Canada must keep corporate tax rates low to continue to attract new business and investment.

"We are gaining more revenue from the business sector by having low rates than we were by having high rates," Harper said. "This is in the interest of everybody and it's the direction we'll continue to go."

Harper, who has called on opposition parties to avoid triggering an "opportunistic" election, also said the latest job numbers that show full-time employment rose in Canada by 38,000 in December were "encouraging." But he again warned the global recovery is still fragile and "significant challenges" remain.

"We need to continue to focus on the economy and I encourage all opposition parties to do the same," Harper told reporters after announcing a new award program to recognize volunteers in Canada. 

Canada 'can't afford' corporate tax cuts: Liberals

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Liberal finance critic Scott Brison says the Conservative government does not appear receptive to his party's advice on the upcoming federal budget. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

Earlier in the day in Ottawa, Brison laid out what he said was a record of "fiscal waste and mismanagement" of Harper's minority Conservative government, which will need the support of at least one opposition party in the House of Commons to survive a confidence vote on the pending budget.

The Liberal finance critic did not say whether all members of his party would vote against the budget when it is tabled in the coming weeks.

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But based on discussions with Flaherty in December, Brison said he felt the government was not willing to part with the final round of corporate tax cuts "that we can't afford and we don't need."

"We want to see the budget first, but we're not that hopeful," he said.

Brison also dismissed the importance of recent polls, which show flagging Liberal support among Canadians and high unpopularity ratings for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

In the "context of a national election campaign," the Liberal MP said Canadians will sit down and compare the two parties and prefer the Liberals' fiscal proposals and the leadership of Ignatieff.

"Ultimately, when Canadians are provided with the facts, they'll make the right decision," he said.

Why Welland?

When the prime minister was asked why he made Friday's announcement in Welland, he replied that the community was a "shining example" of a community hit hard by the global recession that has kept up its spirit of volunteerism.

Observers have cited Harper's naming of Thornhill MP Peter Kent as his new environment minister and adding former OPP commissioner and new Vaughan MP Julian Fantino to his cabinet as a sign the Conservatives are targeting southern Ontario swing ridings for an upcoming election as a path to gaining a majority government.

Harper said that while previous prime ministers "seem to make their announcements in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver," he tries to make it a point to travel to all points of the country.

"As important as those big cities are, Canada is more than that," he said. "You asked me why Welland? The real question is, 'Why not Welland?'"

But it's no coincidence that Welland is currently held by NDP MP Malcolm Allen, the CBC's Julie Van Dusen said.

"They want that riding," she said of the Tories. "It's handy to be there when you just lost by 300 votes."