Politics

Flaherty to table federal budget March 22

The ruling Conservatives will table their latest budget on March 22, laying out a fiscal plan that could lead to their defeat and send Canadians to the polls as early as May.

Budget votes could lead to minority Conservative government's defeat

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says his budget will contain items that will 'engender reflection' from opposition parties. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The ruling Conservatives will table their latest budget on March 22, laying out a fiscal plan that could lead to their defeat and send Canadians to the polls as early as May.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the budget will contain items that will "engender reflection" by opposition parties, although the Liberals and Bloc Québécois have already indicated they will not support it.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government could be defeated and an election triggered if the budget doesn't win the support of at least one of the three opposition parties in the House.

'Living within our means'

Flaherty said the budget will focus on "living within our means" and will propose no big spending projects, tax increases or cuts in transfers to the provinces and territories.

He also said the government remains on track to eliminate the deficit in the medium term, and the budget will help accomplish this by focusing on job creation and economic growth.

"We will not make dangerous new government spending commitments that would trigger higher taxes, kill jobs and reverse Canada's economic growth," Flaherty said outside the House of Commons.

Showdown looms over corporate tax rates

The Opposition Liberals under Michael Ignatieff have indicated they will not support the budget unless Flaherty rolls back corporate tax rate cuts to 2010 levels — a move the finance minister again ruled out Wednesday. The spending plan will have "nothing" about corporate tax cuts, he said.

Speaking to reporters shortly after Flaherty's announcement, Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc acknowledged his party "has a lot of work to do" in light of recent polls suggesting the Conservatives are well ahead of the Liberals in voter support. 

LeBlanc also insisted those who decide whether to support a budget based solely on poll results aren't taking a "good approach."

"There’s a long list of people who decided to start an election and ended up in a different situation from what the polls said three weeks earlier," he said.

Meanwhile, Jack Layton's New Democrats have presented measures they would like to see in this year's fiscal plan.

The NDP asked the Conservatives to take the GST off home heating bills, restore the EcoEnergy Retrofit program and increase the guaranteed income supplement for seniors. The party also wants changes to the Canada Pension Plan, as well as a plan to increase access to family doctors.