OTTAWA – Michael Ignatieff threw down the election gauntlet to Prime Minister Stephen Harper today – and gave him plenty of ways to avoid picking it up.
The Liberal leader demanded more information on four fronts to stave off a summer election: proposed EI changes, stimulus spending, the country’s finances, and the medical isotope shortage.
Ignatieff said Harper must agree to provide the information before the House of Commons rises – even if it means extending the session beyond this week.
But he left the door wide open for Harper to avoid a showdown, saying he only need assurances this week, not necessarily action.
The Liberals have a chance to bring down the minority Conservatives on Friday by voting against the government’s spending estimates. The NDP and Bloc Quebecois have already said they will vote against the government.
“We have serious questions about this report and about the government’s performance,” Ignatieff said in his response to the Tories’ economic progress report.
“Canadians don’t want an election, I don’t want an election. But our job means standing up for our principles, standing up when the government lets Canadians down.”
Ignatieff said he’s willing to compromise to make Parliament work and it’s up to Harper to co-operate and provide transparent government.
The Liberals want to see EI changes that would make eligibility easier during the economic slowdown and eliminate big regional eligibility disparities.
“On Thursday, the prime minister said the government had plans to introduce further changes to EI in the fall,” Ignatieff said.
“The Liberal party needs to see these plans before we allow the government to proceed.”
On the financial front, Ignatieff wants clear information on how much money the government has spent on stimulus and how much it plans to spend.
He also wants to see a specific plan to get the country back out of deficit.
“The Liberal party accepts the need for deficit spending in tough times . . . what plan does the government have to get our finances under control?”
Ignatieff also said he needs more information about how the government is addressing the medical isotope shortage which has left many cancer and heart patients scrambling to find alternative treatment.