Liberals blast Harper government confusion over balancing the budget

A former Liberal finance minister says the Harper government is sending a message of utter confusion when it comes to its management of the economy.

LONDON, Ont. — A former Liberal finance minister says the Harper government is sending a message of utter confusion when it comes to its management of the economy.

Deputy Liberal leader Ralph Goodale says the government has bungled its message since Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced last week that the budget will be delayed until at least April due to the plunging price of oil.

Oliver insisted the government was still on track to balance the budget in the 2015-16 fiscal year and that it would dip into a $3-billion contingency fund to compensate for the loss of oil revenue.

But over the weekend, Employment Minister Jason Kenney contradicted Oliver, saying the government would not deplete the contingency fund and might have to impose further spending restraint to balance the budget.

A senior government official then contradicted Kenney, saying no new spending cuts are being contemplated and suggesting that the contingency fund may yet be used to balance the budget.

Goodale, in London, Ont., for a Liberal caucus retreat, says the mixed messages reflect a government that doesn’t know what it’s doing in the midst of economic uncertainty.

“This government has really bungled their economic management and their economic message,” he said.

“Everything they’ve done in the last week has reinforced the notion of confusion and uncertainty, with the minister of finance swallowing himself whole last week — and then Mr. Kenney spending the weekend contradicting him, and then some other government official anonymously contradicting Mr. Kenney.

“This is a government at sea. They’ve run out of gas and they’re delivering a message of confusion.”