Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks during a press conference at IBM in Ottawa, ON January 16, 2013. Andre Forget/QMI Agency
OTTAWA -- Thursday's budget is the first in a trio before Canadians head to the polls and pass judgment on a Conservative record that includes an untamed deficit, ballooning debt and an unskilled workforce.
The government will attempt to rebrand itself by reining in and redirecting spending and erasing its $26 billion deficit by 2015-16.
That spells program cuts, pink slips and ledger jiggery-pokery if Conservatives live up to their namesake and practice restraint.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's eighth budget will pencil in a surplus in time for the next vote and allow his party to fulfill promises to double the amount Canadians can sock into tax free savings accounts and income splitting.
But the road to 2015 is filled with uncertainty and shrinking tax revenues.
Flaherty will ignore opposition wish lists, but will make skills training and apprenticeship programs a key plank to fill more than 250,000 job vacancies and announce long-term investments to address crumbling roads, bridges and other infrastructure.