Canadians just might be heading to the polls this summer unless the Prime Minister answers some very pressing questions. This morning, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said he’s prepared to vote down the government by Friday if those questions aren’t answered.
He laid them out very carefully, calling them questions to be answered, rather than conditions to be met:
- EI reform – Harper said he might look at reforming the system in the fall. Ignatieff wants those plans now, and he’s even willing to be flexible on the 360-hour national eligibility standard. He’s even willing to sit later into the summer to see those measures implemented. But there needs to be movement there.
- Infrastructure spending – Sure the government says they’ve committed 80 percent of the funds, but how much has actually gone out the door in those crucial first 120 days, and how much will actually be spent in the next 120?
- The state of our finances – The government spent down a $12 billion surplus and put us to the edge of deficit before the recession hit. Ignatieff says they accept the necessity of a deficit in tough times, but the plan Flaherty had made for getting out of it has been replaced by a bunch of rosy projections. Ignatieff wants answers.
- A bonus question really, not even tied to the economy but rather the isotope crisis – If we’re not going to get them from Chalk River, then where are they going to come from. Sure, you say that our global partners are ramping up production, but we’ve called them too, and they can’t offer us any guarantees that Canada’s needs will be met, let alone the global supply.
Ignatieff prefaced the whole press conference by saying that he doesn’t want an election, that Canadians don’t want a summer election, but he has a job to do in holding the government to account.
Ignatieff says he’s trying to make Parliament work. It’s part of his style to give Harper a way out, and he doesn’t want to make him bend or give in – he just wants to be cooperative. But Harper hasn’t spoken to him since January, which Ignatieff says is a symptom of the problem we’re facing.
On a technical sense, Ignatieff says that if Harper doesn’t respond to these questions by Friday – and he’s even willing to be flexible on the date, just to show that he’s a reasonable guy – then he and all 77 Liberals will vote against the government’s supply estimates on Friday, rather than in a separate opposition motion. (Friday is also the Liberal’s final opposition day of the spring sitting). There will be no sitting on hands, or diplomatic flu for his party.
It’s now Harper’s move. Whether he calls up Ignatieff or Layton to make a deal (and Layton has been quite clear in letting it be known that he’s willing to make one), or whether he sticks to his guns and decides to face the polls under a banner of “The Liberals are making us delay stimulus spending by sending us to the polls!” or the ever-handy “Look at us being tough on crime, and they didn’t pass a single one of our measures!”