Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Stephen Harper: "I will be asking our caucus to put this government out of its misery."

In a speech today Stephen Harper indicates that he intends to bring government down on the earliest possible opportunity

Unimpressed by the deal between the federal Liberals and NDP, Conservative leader Stephen Harper says he'll push his party to defeat the government at its first opportunity.

During a speech in Amherstburg, Ontario on Wednesday, Harper vowed to convene a party meeting on the subject as soon as MPs return to the capital.

"Let me be as clear as I can be today, our caucus will be meeting in Ottawa next week," he said. "This is not how Parliament should work, and as soon as we get back I will be asking our caucus to put this government out of its misery."

Harper denounces the deal

Duceppe still will not support the budget either.

At his own press conference in Montreal, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe said, despite the apparent government's eagerness to incorporate other priorities, he sees nothing in the deal to inspire his party's support.

"We cannot support the government any longer," Duceppe said, noting his opposition to climate change provisions in the budget plan. Besides, he continued in English, whatever the terms of the deal, the Bloc is only interested in backing what's good for Quebecers.

"If it's good for Quebec we will support it, if it's not good for Quebec we won't support it. And the Layton-Martin deal is not good for Quebec," he said.

Deal details

Martin announced his deal with the New Democrats late Tuesday, in an attempt to bolster his minority government against parliamentary collapse.

According to their "agreement in principle", which trades corporate tax cuts for new spending on social programs, the NDP's 19-member caucus is committed to voting with the Liberals until the federal budget plan receives royal assent.

"Why are we doing it? We're doing it to make Parliament work," Martin said of the deal Tuesday night.

In an interview with CTV's Canada AM the next morning, both Treasury Board Secretary Reg Alcock and NDP finance critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis were on the same message track.

"It's about working together and finding cooperative solutions that allow us to do the things we've committed to do on behalf of Canadians," Alcock said.

"Finally getting down to a relationship in the House over how we can be more productive and get things accomplished."

But that security came at a price.

To secure the support of the NDP, Martin had to agree to guarantee $4.6-billion in new investment over the next two years.

The money will come out of a projected surplus (before contingencies) of approximately $9-billion, and will go toward the environment, affordable housing, foreign aid, training, and post-secondary education.

A good chunk of the money -- $1.6-billion -- will go to new affordable housing programs. Another $1.5-billion will be given to the provinces for reductions in post-secondary tuition fees and for training programs for the unemployed.

Martin said his party also reached an agreement with the NDP to put off tax cuts for large corporations -- but keep them for small and medium-sized businesses.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, the prime minister said the $3.6 billion in large corporate tax cuts will instead be put into a separate piece of legislation to be introduced when it can find support in the Commons.

"The corporate tax cuts remain intact. It's going to be up to the Conservatives to tell us whether or not they will support them,'' he told CP.

And through it all, Martin stresses that at least $4-billion will still go to debt-repayment.

"Under no circumstances will we go back into deficit," Martin said as he announced the deal. "The fiscal integrity of this country ... remains a fundamental element of our ability to finance social programs and our ability to create jobs."

The deal also includes:

  • $900-million for environmental programs and public transit;
  • $500-million for an increase in foreign aid; and
  • $100-million for a workers' pension protection fund.
From what I've heard thus far, it appears that Martin has done nothing to improve his situation, as he looks like even more like a waffling PM who has no vision and will sacrifice anything to maintain power, and worse, this deal won't actually be able to keep him in power and may have just given Stephen Harper a good reason to bring down the government.

Harper's reaction is precisely what I was hoping that he would do when I saw Jack Layton's babble on TV last night, and more so once the details began to come out. People are saying that it is a good deal for the NDP, but I'm not entirely convinced of this, all that it seems to me is that it proves that they are willing to work with and prop up a horribly corrupt government if it means affordable housing and increased spending on education.

Perhaps the worst part is that Martin didn't actually get rid of the tax cuts exactly, he essentially just increased spending.