Ignatieff rattles election sabre over economy

OTTAWA - Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says the party will decide next week whether to try to bring down the Harper government and plunge the country into a mid-summer election.

OTTAWA - Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says the party will decide next week whether to try to bring down the Harper government and plunge the country into a mid-summer election.

Ignatieff insisted Tuesday that he doesn't want an election but said it's becoming harder and harder to support the minority Conservative government.

"I'm trying to make Parliament work with a government that every day is displaying more flagrant examples of incompetence.

"Canadians don't want an election. I don't want an election but we have a problem - a serious problem about this government's confidence."

Ignatieff said he will assess the government's second progress report on the economy, which he expects to be tabled next week, and decide then whether Liberals will introduce a motion of non-confidence.

Even if they do, Liberals cannot by themselves defeat the government. They would need both the Bloc Quebecois and NDP to join them.

The Bloc and NDP have consistently voted against the government for the last two years, secure in the knowledge that election-wary Liberals would continually prop the Tories up.

But the two opposition parties are less keen now that the Liberals, having edged ahead in opinion polls, are more inclined to pull the plug.

Ignatieff said he will not consult the other opposition parties before deciding whether to try to topple the government.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday that Ignatieff is pushing for an election now because he knows the economy is beginning to recover. The Liberal leader dismissed that assertion as "one of the more ridiculous things I've heard."

He listed four issues which will determine the Liberal decision:

-The "major medical crisis" provoked by the shut-down of the isotope-producing nuclear reactor at Chalk River.

-The government's refusal to adopt equal access to Employment Insurance across the country.

-The fact that only six per cent of infrastructure funds have actually started flowing.

-The ballooning federal budget deficit.

"Toronto Dominion Bank just announced that the deficit over five years will be, wait for this, $168 billion. That's the biggest number anybody has ever heard of," Ignatieff said.

"The public finances of this country are not under control, right?"

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty last week disclosed that the deficit for this fiscal year alone will soar to more than $50 billion - $16 billion more than projected just four months earlier.

Ignatieff also signalled that Liberals will not support the Harper government's third attempt to impose eight-year limits on the terms served by senators.

Ignatieff said Liberals support parliamentary renewal and aren't opposed to term limits in principle.

But he said Harper is going about Senate reform "entirely the wrong way," refusing to consult with provinces or seek advice from the Supreme Court about whether such reform can be done without a constitutional amendment approved by at least seven provinces.

"It's another my-way-or-the-highway and it won't fly with us," he said.

Liberals hold a majority in the Senate, where the term limit bill was introduced last week.

Four provinces, including Quebec and Ontario, have argued that Senate reforms, including the imposition of term limits, can only be achieved with the formal constitutional consent of seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population. Quebec has threatened to go to court if necessary to stop the federal government from proceeding unilaterally.

Ignatieff said Liberals oppose a term limit of eight years because it would theoretically allow a two-term prime minister to appoint every senator to the 105-seat chamber. He said that would be "bad for the liberty of Canadian citizens."

 
 
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