And he'll probably stick to that, despite the crowing from Reformatory bloggers and his own ministers over the past, I don't know, year. Flaherty's budget will probably have some cuts, but nothing on the scale compared to what other governments are doing, or what their provincial cousins are claiming.
Why, you ask? Well, it's politically expedient to do so. The Conservatives could fight an election right now if they wanted to, but it would be completely pointless given their current levels of support. Until the situation is a bit more convenient for them, they probably won't do anything to force the Opposition's hand, not like 2008, or 2007. Which puts the initiative, and the blame, for an election completely on the Liberals and other parties. Probably just how Harper wants it.
Of course, I'm not so sure how smart of an idea it really is. The Conservatives have already completely destroyed Ignatieff's reputation, they've got the upper hand in fundraising and the advantage in seats that they also have and are also in play for them, and in general their organization is a good bit stronger than the Liberals. They may lose a few seats, but they could easily stand right now against the Liberals and maintain a strong minority government and govern for a few more years. That's how the situation stands right now. They instead risk giving the Liberals more time to build their organization and effectiveness, and some of their own arguments about austerity and keeping Canada's budget in line and what not are undercut by their politically-driven sidestep. Indeed, the Liberal motto of "planes & prisons" could be strengthened by a government budget that doesn't curb the Conservatives' own excesses, which you just know riles their base. At least with a tough budget next year making the government fall allows the Conservatives leeway to argue they tried, but that damned Liberal/socialist/separatist coalition stopped them.
Another concern for for them would be whether their support in the GTA, the area that they're undoubtedly targeting, has such a long staying power. All the Conservatives need is for the Liberals in the region to start getting organized and strengthen their local defenses, something I might add that they're very good at doing. The Conservatives may have some momentum from Vaughan in the region, but how long will that stick? Sure, the thought is there, but wait too long and it'll be replaced, and most likely by that nice shiny red door knocker from their local Liberal MP promising them something.
If I were the Conservative's strategist, I would seriously consider going the first chance they get in 2011. At the moment there's certainty about your position; later on there might not be. And don't worry, Canadians will forgive you if you go for an election so soon - they did last time, after all...