Finance Minister Jim Flaherty re-introduces federal budget with few changes

Federal finance minister Jim Flaherty re-introduced his Conservative government’s budget today, with minor changes from the plan announced in March.

While the document is nearly identical to the previous budget introduced before the federal election, new additions include $2.2 billion in funding to support an agreement between Quebec and the Canadian government on sales tax harmonization.

Another budgetary addition announced by Flaherty today is the elimination of quarterly subsidies to Canadian political parties.

According to budget documents, the government will introduce legislation to gradually reduce the $2-per vote allowance by 51 cent increments starting on April 1, 2012. The subsidy will be completely eliminated by 2015-2016.

In his budget speech, Flaherty repeatedly referred to the election of the Conservative majority government on May 2 as a signal of public support for the Harper government’s budget that was introduced on March 22.

“By supporting this plan, members will echo the most essential endorsement of all: the backing of Canadians themselves,” said Flaherty.

“Through their votes last month, their voices have been heard and they said ”˜yea’ to the economic plan that was put before them.”

Flaherty also announced an earlier target for balancing the budget books than he pledged in the March budget.

The finance minister said the government plans to use a review of departmental spending in 2011-2012 to generate $4 billion in annual savings, allowing the government to return to balance by 2014-2015, one year earlier than previously announced.

“These substantial savings will be reported on and recorded in Budget 2012 when the review is completed,” said Flaherty.

Members of Parliament did not vote on the March 22 budget before the election was called.