OTTAWA - Newly appointed Finance Minister Joe Oliver won’t say where he stands in the high-stakes political controversy over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s yet-to-be-fulfilled election promise of lower income taxes for families with children.
The promise from the 2011 campaign became a hot topic among Conservatives after former finance minister Jim Flaherty said it should be reexamined because income-splitting would benefit only a small portion of Canadian taxpayers.
In his first day as finance minister in the Commons on Monday, Oliver said the tax measure “can be a good policy for families.” But he did not say if the government would go ahead with the specific promise to bring in income-splitting once the federal budget deficit is eliminated.
“Once we have achieved a balanced budget, the government will keep its promise to give even more tax relief to Canadian families,” Oliver said, without saying exactly what tax breaks would be forthcoming.
Since Flaherty questioned the wisdom of income-splitting, there has been speculation that — when the deficit is gone — the government might introduce income tax cuts or similar breaks for families that would benefit a wider portion of the populace than would be helped by income-splitting.
NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen said Oliver is sowing more “confusion” about the key Conservative election promise.
Oliver, the Toronto MP who previously held the natural resources portfolio, was named finance minister last week when Flaherty announced he was stepping down from cabinet.