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Tax cuts coming in March 19 budget 

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:20 p.m., February 20, 2007]

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

OTTAWA  — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Tuesday he will table his budget on Monday, March 19 and the government has enough fiscal room to make more tax cuts and address the fiscal imbalance with the provinces.  

"We're in sufficient financial situation in Canada to move from fiscal imbalance to fiscal balance and also to reduce taxes," he told reporters shortly after announcing the budget date in question period. 

Flaherty said the tax cuts will go beyond the $1.5 billion cuts already announced for pension splitting and $800 million from the tax back guarantee, which will see interest savings from deficit reduction used to reduce personal taxes. 

The budget is to be introduced less than a week before an expected election day in Quebec. Quebec Premier Jean Charest is expected on Wednesday to send Quebecers to the polls for March 26. 

However, Flaherty denied the budget timing has anything to do with Charest's election timetable. 

It is believed that a budget that provides billions in new money for Quebec for the fiscal imbalance would help propel Charest to an election victory. 

The budget is crucial for the survival of the minority Parliament. 

As it stands now, the Conservatives will need the support of at least one of the three opposition parties to pass the budget or face a loss on a matter of confidence. 

Flaherty said he met last week with the finance critics from the three opposition parties, but found little in terms of common ground. 

"I must say it reminded me a bit of dealing with the provincial finance ministers in that there's no unanimity of view. So it's difficult to try to satisfy all three opposition parties on any particular issue." 

NDP Leader Jack Layton told reporters Tuesday that Flaherty has not offered any concessions to the NDP in exchange for support for the budget. He also sounded cool towards a budget that centres around tax reduction. 

"We don't support an approach to the budget that simply says: we are going to improve people's health by cutting their taxes or we are going to provide more transit by cutting taxes or we are going to make more affordable housing available by cutting taxes," Layton said. 

"We have never seen a tax cut hire a nurse, a child care worker or a teacher. So we think Mr. Harper is on the wrong track."

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