Federal budget to drop April 21, Joe Oliver says

WATCH: Finance Minister Joe Oliver set April 21 to drop the next federal budget. He says the Conservative government will table a ‘balanced budget.’ Jacques Bourbeau reports.

The Harper Conservatives will table their belated 2015-16 budget on April 21, Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced Thursday.

“It will be a balanced budget, just as we promised,” the minister said. “A budget focused on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.”

Oliver made the announcement using the Canada Goose factory in Toronto as a backdrop two days into the fiscal year for which he’s planning the budget.

READ MORE: 5 suggestions for Canada’s federal budget

In mid-January, Oliver announced his intention to delay the budget beyond the end of the fiscal year, saying he wanted to wait for tanking oil prices to stabilize.

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Opposition parties have been critical of the Conservative government’s decision to delay the budget.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Oliver have pledged to balance the budget ahead of a looming federal election —and, indeed, parts of the minister’s announcement sounded like part of a campaign.

Although there was no specific mention of the official Opposition New Democrats, Oliver took aim at Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.

READ MORE: Federal budget to be delayed until April, Oliver says

“We Conservatives understand the government must live within its means,” he said, cautioning against using taxes to pad the bottom line.

“The Liberals have told Canadians that budgets balance themselves. I can tell you they do not. Budgets require a plan and the discipline to follow it.”

Oliver admonished the opposition parties for touting fiscal plans that are “far from complete or coherent,” and rely on “massive taxes and even bigger hikes” in spending.

Despite the promise to balance the books, Oliver didn’t say exactly how big the surplus might be, nor would he divulge any details of the budget.

READ MORE: Federal government still pledging balanced budget despite oil prices

“There will not be a deficit,” he said. “To the extent there’s a surplus that goes to the repayment of debt.”

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The latest fiscal monitor, released in January, found a surplus of $2.2 billion, which was virtually unchanged year-over-year. The fiscal monitor for the year-to-date, from April 2014 to January 2015, however, indicated a surplus of $1.3 billion.

Last November, Oliver forecast a budget surplus of $1.9 billion for 2015, but his estimates were based on an oil price closer US$90 a barrel, a figure that has since fallen sharply. The May futures contract closed below US$50 on Thursday.

Oliver also kept any details of the budget close to his chest.

READ MORE: Does the income-splitting plan only benefit 15% of Canadians?

“We do not need the kind of stimulus package that we had during the great recession because we’re not in a recession now, but we’re going to continue to make investments in the future.”

The Conservatives have, however, in recent months been trotting out some grants and tax breaks Canadians can expect to see in the April 21 budget, including income splitting.

That was one of several tax mechanisms the Conservatives promised during the 2011 federal campaign that were contingent on a balanced budget.

READ MORE: Income splitting to drain workers from labour force, particularly women, PBO says

Whether the other pledges —an adult fitness tax credit and doubling the ceiling for Tax Free Savings Account contributions to $10,000 per year —will be included is unknown.

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This is the 10th budget Stephen Harper’s government has tabled, and Oliver’s first as finance minister.

Tell us (and the finance minister): What do you want to see in Canada’s federal budget? Why?

Note: We may use what you send us in this or future stories. We may get in touch with you but won’t publish or share your contact info.

With files from The Canadian Press

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