11/16/2012 05:36 EST | Updated 01/16/2013 05:12 EST

Harper, Flaherty Seemingly At Odds Over Balanced Budget Date

Prime Minister Stephen Harper seemed to part ways slightly from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who said earlier this week that the federal budget won't be balanced by the government's 2015-16 goal, with the deficit up $5.1 billion to a total of $26.2 billion since the budget was tabled last March.

It will take until 2016-17, Flaherty said, which is two years later than he had projected during the 2011 election campaign.

But Harper said the government still plans to balance the budget before the next federal election, which is set for October 2015, according to the fixed date election law the Conservatives introduced.

"It remains the government's plan, intention, to balance the budget prior to the next federal election," Harper said. "The recent economic and fiscal update by the minister indicates we are actually very close to that objective, we're not quite where we want to be but we're very close."

Harper said it's because of a global slowdown, not because of the Conservatives' financial management, that the government is off-target, and foreshadowed the possibility of more spending cuts.

"To the extent we're not quite where we want to be, that is not due to the federal government's management of its own expenditures. Our own expenditures are on track, exactly where we thought they would be. Our revenue is obviously somewhat down in recent months because of the recent slowing of the global economy. But our position remains that we will continue to restrain expenditures and we will balance the budget without tax increases," he said.

Following Harper's comments, the NDP issued a press release that said, "The PM's answer was quite different than the one given by Jim Flaherty just three days ago. If he had been listening to his government's economic update, he would have heard how his government is not planning to balance the budget until 2016-17. Broken promises, economic mismanagement and making things up. That's the Conservative record."

When Flaherty was asked if he and the prime minister are at odds over the date when the budget would be balanced, he replied, "The prime minister and I are on the same page, we always have been. I'm not a rookie at this, and he's not either."

Flaherty was speaking to reporters after a speech he gave at the Foreign Policy Association in New York.

"These numbers are not written in stone," Flaherty said, "Things change."

Flaherty added that the deficit in 2015 would be about $1.8 billion, which he pointed out is one half of one per cent of the entire budget of the government. "Our revenue track, as shown in the fall economic update, shows that we get virtually to a balanced budget by 2015," he said.

However, Flaherty added that the basket of financial goodies the government has promised, including income splitting for families with children, a doubling of the Tax Free Savings Account annual limit, and more fitness credits, won't be introduced until the deficit is completely wiped out.

"The platform was clear that we would not move forward with these additional measures until we have a balanced budget and that remains the position. Our intention is to balance the budget before the next election. We're very close now. I hope we will get there," he said.

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