Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Opposition lines up against government

Opposition lines up against government

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff tells reporters outside on Parliament Hill March 23 that his party will move to a motion of non-confidence against the government, which could trigger an election by the weekend. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press) 

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Wedneday his party will table a motion against the government Wednesday and seek to defeat it Friday. The leaders of the NDP and the Bloc Québécois said they would support the Liberal motion.

Ignatieff said the government stands accused of contempt of Parliament, election fraud and influence peddling, referring to recent scandals. And he attacked the government over the spending priorities in the budget.

"There isn't what there should be for families," in the budget, Ignatieff said, pointing to families who can't get child care or afford post-secondary education.

Ignatieff said it's a question of respect for Parliament's institutions.

"This is a government that's lost the confidence of the House of Commons, a government that's lost the confidence of Canadians," he said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said in his own remarks to reporters, "If it comes to it...we would be voting in favour" of the Liberal contempt motion. Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe also said he would vote against the government.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill March 23. Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper earlier defended his government's budget and said the opposition parties did not give it a chance.

Harper said in an interconnected world, Canada's economy is at risk, and his government is focused on following through on their plan for the country.

"I'm disappointed (the other leaders) didn't take the time to read the budget before they decided," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

The prime minister said the opposition parties are choosing to force "an unnecessary" election.

"It is not too late for them to step back, to think about the fragile global recovery and to listen to the strong support of the many organizations and the Canadian public for these measures," he said.

Layton said his party was willing to try to support a Conservative budget, and said Harper still has a chance to make changes to it.

"[The prime minister] could have strengthened the retirement security of hard-working security, but instead under a cloud of scandal," Harper chose not to.

Layton said Canadians were looking to the budget for help. "What they got was just more proof that Ottawa is broken and more evidence Setphen Harper can't be trusted."

In his earlier comments, Harper went over some of the highlights from the budget he said the opposition is putting at risk, including infrastructure funding for the cities and the tax credits for caregivers and children's arts programs.

"They are opposing initiatives to create job growth," he said, adding that the opposition leaders must explain their rejection of the budget.

If the government loses a vote of a non-confidence on Friday, the prime minister is prepared to head to Rideau Hall on Saturday to ask Gov. Gen. David Johnston to disolve Parliament and issue a writ of election, CBC News has learned. An election campaign would begin immediately, with an election date of Monday, May 2.

Asked Wednesday whether he would pre-empt a non-confidence motion by the Liberals by going to the Governor General himself, Harper said, "Our priority is the economy and we'll continue... as long as we're in office."

The Liberals have argued the Conservatives can't be trusted on budget numbers, and they've been leading the charge to find the government in contempt of Parliament for not giving sufficient information to MPs on the cost estimates of their crime legislation, the F-35 fighter jet deal and corporate tax cuts.

A committee studying the matter found the government in contempt on Monday and at some point the House of Commons must vote on whether to agree with that finding. A debate on that report could get underway as early as Wednesday, but Liberal MP Scott Brison said one has not been scheduled.

Instead, a debate on the budget itself is also scheduled to begin today after question period, in accordance with parliamentary rules. Liberal motions on contempt or non-confidence would follow.

Meanwhile, cabinet ministers and Conservative MPs are fanning out across the country to promote the budget, which the government calls "the next phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan."