Focusing on surpluses/deficits is Harper's game and the opposition parties may be foolish if they choose to play it. Why? Because government spending is supposed to do something, and not just be a balance sheet. Yes, it matters whether the government is spending too much (deep deficits), but the real question is: are Canadian taxpayers and everyone else getting their money's worth? Are there collective goods that the government needs to provide that are under-supplied?
The Canadian budget may be balanced but are Canadians getting what they expected? Ask the veterans, who have fewer benefits and fewer offices to access those benefits. Ask the Canadian Armed Forces, which lack the ships needed to fulfill the promises of the Canada First Defence Strategy, and fall short of recruiting targets due to cuts in recruiting budgets, etc, etc. Ask the refugees about lapsed money that could have been spent on their cause.
The basic point is this: is the Harper budgeting strategy providing Canadians with the stuff they want/need? Maybe yes, maybe no. The lack of transparency, with the end of the year lapses/cuts/clawbacks/whatever you want to call them, is simply not a good way to do business. The Harper style is a lot of symbolic stances but poor decision making. My favorite example is the size of the CAF--100k--when personnel is 50% of budget. Keep the size but sacrifice readiness? Sure.
Anyhow, as long as the opposition parties focus on budgets/balancing, they are playing Harper's game, and it might just be the wrong one for them to play.