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Federal budget to come down Feb. 11: Flaherty

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he will hand down his spring budget on Feb. 11.

He’s not promising the new spending plan will balance the books, however.

Flaherty says he’ll have a balanced budget in 2015.

The balanced books come just in time for the next federal election.

Flaherty says he’ll balance the budget without raising taxes or cutting transfer payments to the provinces for health and education.

However, he’s suggesting this month’s budget will be a stay-the-course document, with little in the way of spending or tax goodies.

Parliament returns from break

The federal Conservatives say they’ll focus on the economy and the upcoming budget as they return to work in Ottawa after a six-week break.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan says the government will concentrate on creating jobs and on consumer- and justice-oriented legislation, such as a publicly accessible database of high-risk child predators.

He repeated a promise to deliver a balanced budget next year, saying the yet-to-be-released spending plan will be the cornerstone of the government’s agenda in the coming weeks and months.

The Conservatives are expected to take every opportunity to highlight their economic prowess in advance of the budget, which could be introduced by mid-February.

“The cornerstone of our agenda in Parliament will be the budget,” Van Loan said. “Canadians can count on our government to build upon our strong record of creating jobs, keeping taxes low and returning to budgetary balance.”

Van Loan wouldn’t talk about what cuts are on their way to slay the deficit and stayed away from answering questions about how a low dollar may improve the economy, but raise prices for consumers.

While the Conservatives want to keep the economy front and centre, the NDP and the Liberals say they will keep the Senate scandals in the forefront.

The government has not been able to mute the criticism which began with the revelation that Stephen Harper’s then-chief of staff, Nigel Wright, personally paid Sen. Mike Duffy $90,000 so that he could reimburse the Senate for allegedly fraudulent living expense claims.

RCMP documents filed in court indicate more than a dozen top players in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senate leadership and Conservative party were involved in the deal to protect Duffy, interfere with an independent audit of his expenses and whitewash a Senate report on his conduct.

NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen says the issue isn’t going to disappear.