Election talk swirls around March 22 budget

Wed Mar 2, 2011 2:36pm EST
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Wednesday he will present the next federal budget on March 22, a spending plan that could prompt an election if opposition parties vote it down.

Flaherty in recent weeks has billed the upcoming budget as a prudent spending plan that will make progress toward eliminating the country's budget deficit by 2015.

He said negotiations with the opposition were ongoing but that he did not feel under any pressure from the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), which most political observers see as the only one of the three opposition parties that might back the budget.

Because the Conservative government has a minority of seats in the House of Commons, it needs the backing of at least one of the opposition parties to pass key legislation such as the budget.

If opposition lawmakers defeat the budget in Parliament, an election would be called. The election would likely take place in early May.

An opinion poll released on Tuesday showed the Conservatives have enough support to form the majority government that eluded them in the past two elections.

Flaherty was cryptic in his comments, refraining from saying whether he plans to include in the budget specific recommendations made by the NDP.

"I expect there will be some items in the budget that will engender consideration by opposition parties. At least I hope so."

He said that the government does not plan to raise taxes and won't make "dangerous new spending commitments".

He said he will meet private-sector economists next week to update the economic forecasts on which the government's fiscal outlook is based.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Peter Galloway)

 
<p>Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks to journalists on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 2, 2011. Flaherty announced the next federal budget will be presented on March 22. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>