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Though it will pass Commons, Tories must still sell budget to Canadians

Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

Jim Flaherty and at least six other ministers will fan out across the country Tuesday to sell the 2011 federal budget. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver speaks Tuesday morning at the Toronto Board of Trade; Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is in Regina and the Finance Minister himself is to give a luncheon speech to the International Economic Forum of the Americas/Conference of Montreal.

His message? "Stay the course," he told The Globe. "And no big reductions in spending. We are keeping our commitments to Canadians. We ran on the budget, [added a]couple of extra platform commitments and we put them all in there yesterday."

He was referring to the addition of $2.2-billion for Quebec for the harmonization of the sales tax and the promise to eliminate the $2-per-vote political subsidies. In addition, the government said during the campaign that it would erase the deficit a year earlier.

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As for finding $4-billion annually in cuts, that process begins "right away," Mr. Flaherty said. "It will be fairly intense for the next six months or so."

The Finance Minister added: "You want to be careful about how you do it. It's about operational spending. The private sector does it all time, how effectively can you deliver programs."

Treasury Board President Tony Clement is leading the process. He is vowing to work through the summer and fall to identify the savings. "Generally both the departments/agencies and the committee I chair start work in the weeks ahead," Mr. Clement said Tuesday morning.

Of course, Monday marked the first time the Finance Minister delivered a budget with a majority government and therefore didn't have to worry about it becoming law. "It was fun to get up yesterday," Mr. Flaherty said. "I was taken aback when I stood up actually because I looked across and saw all those Conservatives sitting on the other side."

With 166 MPs, the government has 13 seats on the opposition side of the Commons chamber.

Teaching Tories the alphabet

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird had the best line of the night Monday as co-chair of the Institute of Governance's dinner honouring two former premiers, British Columbia's Gordon Campbell and Danny Williams from Newfoundland and Labrador.

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When speaking of Mr. Williams, he joked the former premier had helped him with his "ABCs." The brash Newfoundlander, who was feuding with the Prime Ministers, launched an "Anyone-but-Conservative" campaign during the 2008 election that managed to shut Stephen Harper's team out of the province.

And former Liberal deputy prime minister Anne McLellan, who was the co-chair with Mr. Baird, remembered traveling to Newfoundland and talking to a cab driver about the premier. He her Mr. Williams could have run against "Jesus Christ" and still won.

Mr. Campbell, meanwhile, put on a Canucks jersey during the ceremony. That got a big cheer but did nothing for the Vancouver players in Boston.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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