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No major new cuts coming, says minister, as MPs return to Commons

Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday Nov. 24, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

While one federal minister says no major new spending cuts are coming, another is hinting that the Harper Conservatives could dip into a rainy-day fund to balance the government’s books.

As members of Parliament return to work on Monday, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan is spelling out his party’s priorities for the first Commons sitting of the new year.

Van Loan says all eyes will be on building the economy and creating jobs amid the uncertainty created by falling oil prices.

When asked whether the government would dip into a $3 billion contingency reserve that was built into this year’s budget for unexpected events such as natural disasters, Van Loan said any money left over at the end of the fiscal year would go to the government’s bottom line.

On his way into the Commons, Treasury Board President Tony Clement also said the Conservatives have no plans to announce any major new cost-cutting measures to balance the budget.

But NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen says Prime Minister Stephen Harper has painted himself into a fiscal corner by recently announcing measures that will cost the treasury — such as income splitting — without leaving room for economic shocks.

And Cullen says the contingency fund should only be used to pay for unexpected disasters, not disasters created through political policy.