Flaherty pledges modest budget
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says his budget is not "imminent" and will contain only modest proposals, not big spending items.
Speaking to reporters on Monday in Ottawa, Flaherty said he is willing to entertain some opposition suggestions for the budget to avoid an election, but will not cancel the final round of corporate tax cuts as the Liberals and NDP demand.
But Flaherty said he would "welcome discussion" with opposition parties on areas such as employment insurance, job retraining for older workers and more support for the hard-hit forestry sector, especially in Quebec.
"People look at Canada as a solid stable attractive place to do business, and one of those attractive points is that we’re moving to balanced budgets again," he said.
"One of the points of this budget is to ensure that track and make sure it’s solid."
The finance minister, who announced tighter mortgage rules on Monday to address concerns over high household debt, said Canadians should not expect the budget to be tabled immediately after Parliament returns on Jan. 31.
"The budget is not imminent," he said "We haven’t chosen on a date yet."
Tories launch new ad blitz
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government must obtain support from at least one of the three opposition parties in a confidence vote on the budget to avoid defeat in the House of Commons and triggering a spring election.
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The Liberals oppose the corporate tax cuts as unaffordable during a time of record federal deficits, while the New Democrats have demanded the upcoming budget include relief for Canadians struggling with high home heating bills and an extension of the popular home renovation tax credit.
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe has vowed to vote against Flaherty's budget if it doesn't include $2 billion in compensation for Quebec for harmonizing the federal GST and the provincial sales tax — a move Flaherty appeared to rule out this weekend in an interview with CBC Radio's The House.
Flaherty's comments on the budget come as the Conservatives unveiled their latest round of advertising targeting Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP Leader Jack Layton. The ads will begin airing this week across the country in response to what the Tories say is an election "threat" by the opposition parties.
The ads claim an "opportunist" Ignatieff has decided that an election this spring is his "best hope of becoming prime minister." They also emphasize Ignatieff's and Layton's role in a failed 2008 Liberal-NDP coalition attempt supported by the Bloc.
In response to the ads, the New Democrats sent out a list containing full transcripts of partial quotations used in the ads, and accused the Conservatives of misrepresenting the quotes to make false claims about the NDP's record in opposition and actions during the 2008 coalition talks.
Meanwhile, the Liberals said the Conservatives are "resorting to attacks because they lack any direction of their own."
"It's pure hypocrisy for Stephen Harper to say he doesn’t want an election while he's spending millions on ads and runs his government like it's an extension of the Conservative Party in a perpetual campaign," the Liberals said in a statement.