March 11, 2008 / 7:22 PM / 10 years ago

Flaherty moves to kill opposition plan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took the unusual step on Tuesday of introducing a motion in Parliament to kill an opposition tax bill that he said jeopardized the government’s prized budget surplus.

<p>Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stands to speak during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 27, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

The motion is a confidence matter, meaning that its defeat in Parliament could trigger an election, but the main opposition party said it had no plans to topple the minority Conservative government just yet.

A vote is expected this Thursday.

Flaherty took advantage of a routine “ways and means motion” meant to implement parts of his 2008-09 budget, adding specific text in the motion aimed at blocking an education tax break proposed by the opposition Liberals.

“I am also providing notice today of our intention to include with this ways and means motion language to protect Canada’s fiscal framework from the effects of Bill C-253, which would see the federal government back to deficit,” Flaherty told the House of Commons.

The mentioned bill, presented by Liberal legislator Dan McTeague, would make payments into a registered education savings plan tax-deductible at an estimated cost of C$900 million ($900 million) a year.

The House of Commons passed the bill quickly last week and the Senate is now studying it.

Flaherty vowed on Monday to kill off the plan, saying it was his duty to protect the fiscal integrity of the government.

In his latest fiscal plan, Flaherty forecast Ottawa would post tighter fiscal surpluses in the next two years of C$2.3 billion and C$1.3 billion, respectively.

The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds a minority of seats in Parliament and needs the support of at least one of the three opposition parties to stay in power. The Liberals under leader Stephane Dion have propped up the government at several opportunities and appeared to still not be ready to go to the polls.

“The Liberal Party will not bring the government down on this motion, on this budget at this time,” John McCallum, Liberal member of parliament responsible for finance matters, told reporters.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; Writing by Louise Egan; editing by Renato Andrade

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