Former Stephen Harper colleague says that the prime minister has “abandoned his one-time conservative principles”

The Harper government may not be so fiscally conservative after all.

On Tuesday, finance minister Jim Flaherty announced that the federal deficit will balloon to $26 billion this year — about $7 billion bigger than it estimated in the March budget.

"Weak global demand has translated into lower-than-expected world commodity prices and this, in turn, has lowered the level of nominal GDP and government revenues in our forecast," Flaherty said in an address in Fredericton, according to the Globe and Mail.

"Nevertheless, we remain on track to meet our goal to return to balanced budgets over the medium term."

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Promises of future balanced budgets notwithstanding, there are now questions about the Harper government's economic prowess and its ability to get spending under control.

Political analyst Gerry Nicholls — who worked with Stephen Harper while at the National Citizens Coalition — says today's news on the deficit proves "beyond any doubt" that the prime minister "has abandoned his one-time conservative principles."

"Once he was a fiscal conservative, but today he is simply a pragmatic, partisan politician, focused on pursuing, pragmatic, partisan and political goals," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"That's why he won't deal seriously with the deficit or debt; to do so would be bad politics. In short, his desire to hold onto power trumps his principles, it trumps sound economics and it trumps conservative ideology."

The fiscally conservative Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF)  also joined Nicholls in slamming Flaherty's announcement.

"Mr. Flaherty has kicked the can down the road for the second year in a row.  He's becoming an expert at 'kick the can,'" federal director Gregory Thomas said in statement released on Tuesday afternoon.

"The CTF national debt clock is now moving up at a rate of $863 a minute, up from $669 a minute.

"Canadians can't afford this kind of runaway borrowing. That's why they voted for a balanced budget last year, not business-as-usual pork-barreling and bigger deficits."

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Those to  left of the political spectrum have consistently chided the Harper government about their record on the economy — and about everything else for that matter.  That's a given.

What's interesting is now seeing the traditionally Harper-friendly right-leaning groups take a jab at the Tories.

You can watch Flaherty's full statement on the deficit here:

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