Stephen Harper insists he's got no appetite for an election and is promising the 2011 budget will be free of "draconian cuts"- the kind of measures that might give opposition parties a concrete reason to defeat the Conservatives.
In a year-end interview with CTV, the Prime Minister said he plans a small cabinet shuffle in January, but has no intention of taking steps to trigger an election after more than two years since the last vote.
"I'm not going to call an election and we're not going to bring some kind of poison pill to cause an election. We are committed to governing," he said in the interview, which will be broadcast in full on Dec. 25 at 7 p.m.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff declared this week that his party will oppose the next Conservative budget because the Tories are proceeding with two items he cannot support: phased-in corporate tax breaks and the controversial purchase of pricey stealth fighter jets.
The minority Tory government needs about a dozen votes from other parties to pass the budget, a confidence matter, so Mr. Ignatieff's decision means the NDP and the Bloc Québécois must decide whether to back the budget or trigger an election.
The Prime Minister's remarks appear to be an attempt to deflect the blame if his government is defeated and Canadians find themselves heading to the polls in early 2011.
Mr. Harper said he remains optimistic that Canada's economy is still headed for "a slow, gradual recovery" and, given the federal government's relatively strong financial situation, he doesn't see a need for drastic cuts to government spending to set Ottawa on course for a balanced budget.
"It's not a matter of draconian cuts but it will be a matter of discipline over some period of time."
He said even as Ottawa's winding down its stimulus spending, he's planning measures to spur job growth. "We are going to look, going forward, to things we can do to continue to prod the economy to create jobs."
"[But]we have to make sure that any spending we do is targeted on the economy and job creation," the Prime Minister said. "We don't need to have deep slash and burn. We're not going to be slashing health care and education and some of things that were done in the past."
The Conservative Leader said he doesn't think Canadians want an election. "We're in a fragile global recovery. Canada is in a very good position for the long term, but we need to stay focused on that and not screw around with a bunch of political games."
That said, he was adamant he won't craft formal deals with the NDP or Bloc to remain in power. He paused to take a swipe at the separatist Bloc, saying he would "certainly not [cut a deal]with the Bloc Québécois party that is dedicated to the breakup of the country."
Mr. Harper said the economic recovery is still worrisome because it hinges on global events, including government debt woes in the European Union that threaten to erode investor faith in troubled countries across the continent.
"The real concern for us lies outside the [country's]borders. The performance of the U.S. economy. The problems in Europe. These are the really big storm clouds we have to worry about."
Ultimately, however, the Conservatives plan a relatively moderate approach to eliminating the now-annual budget deficit. Mr. Harper said he believes that if Ottawa keeps a tight rein on new spending, a growing economy alone will do much of the work in generating additional tax revenue to balance the budget.
"Obviously, we've got to make sure our spending is in priority areas and it's not growing and if we do that in the next few years, we should see enough economic growth to close that deficit gap," he said.
Mr. Harper also told CTV he has no plans to repeat his controversial 2009 decision to prorogue, or temporarily shutter, Parliament.