TORONTO — The first budget delivered by a Harper majority government will be little changed from the one it proposed days before the Conservative minority government fell in March, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Tuesday.
“There will be some changes but essentially it will be the March 22 budget,” Jim Flaherty told reporters after a speech in Toronto.
There will have to be an economic update because there’s more data now, he said.
“And there are some items that were in our platform that may or may not be in this budget,” Flaherty said.
The Conservatives still have to negotiate an agreement with the Quebec government, which wants compensation for being one of the first provinces to adopt the harmonized sales tax.
Quebec has argued that it should get a deal comparable to what other provinces have negotiated more recently.
“We will have to make allowance, I expect, for that, because it was part of the commitment that we made during the election campaign,” Flaherty said. “We have a target of reaching the agreement by the 15th of September
He said the energy retrofit plan — a concession to the NDP when the Conservatives were governing as a minority — will stay in the budget, even though the Tories no longer need approval from what is now the No. 2 party.
Flaherty said he doesn’t expect the New Democrats to be markedly different as the Official Opposition from the Liberals, who fell to third place during the election, because neither party appears to be focused on the economy.
“I think what Canadians are most concerned about are economic issues and that was reflected in the election results — the fact that we got a majority — we were talking about what people are actually concerned about. ”
Pundits and politicians from other parties have noted, however, that even though the Conservatives got more than half the seats in the House of Commons the party received less than half of the votes cast for the May 2 election.
The plan to reduce corporate tax rates had been opposed during the recent federal election campaign by both the New Democrats and the Liberals.
The opposition parties had argued the government should roll back previous corporate tax cuts while the country still had federal budget deficits..
The Tories led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper won a solid majority, however, and will be able to pass their budgets without fear of being blocked.
Flaherty said Tuesday that he believes cutting corporate tax rates will result in more foreign investment without “getting into debt or deficit issues. ”
He said the Conservatives are aiming to table a balanced budget in 2014.
Flaherty said he is looking forward to overseeing the economy with a majority government that can take a longer-term view.
“As a minority, you have to also look at the 45 day track which makes planning difficult because you’re always looking at the possibility of an election in the next 45 days,” Flaherty said.
He added that he is keeping a close eye on the rising loonie and softer housing market.
Finance Department documents show that the reduction of corporate income tax — from 18 per cent in 2010 to 16.5 per cent in 2011 and then to 15 per cent in 2012 — will be expensive for any government battling a deficit.
The cost is about $1.6 billion in foregone revenue in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, $3.9 billion the year after, and a total of more than $10 billion over three years.