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Dion downplays Senate budget showdown 

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:00 p.m. June 13, 2007]

OTTAWA  — Liberal leader Stephane Dion appears to be on a different page than his Senate colleagues who have been warning they could delay or even amend the budget implementation bill. 
  

The now controversial bill, which critics from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland say alters the Atlantic Accord, easily passed in the House of Commons Tuesday evening. 

Less than 24 hours later, a number of Liberal senators are now making threats to delay passage of the bill, which the government has called its No. 1 priority that it says needs to be passed before the end of the month for fiscal reasons. 

George Baker, a Liberal senator for Newfoundland, told CBC News Wednesday that he is "duty-bound not just to interfere with it but to vote against it and do whatever I could to delay it." 

Traditionally, the Senate does not alter money bills that have been passed in the House. 

When the Senate makes amendments to government bills they are returned to the minister who introduced the bill. That minister must then present a motion in the House rejecting or supporting the amendments. 

After question period, Dion suggested that if the Liberal-controlled Senate were to make any amendments they would be futile because they wouldn't survive a vote in the House. 

"At the end of the day we have no possibility to impose any amendments in the House and everybody knows that because we don't have the numbers," Dion told reporters. 

"At the end of the day the budget will be the budget that the House voted (for) yesterday despite that it's a bad budget."

Earlier on Wednesday, Celine Hervieux-Payette, the Liberal Senate leader, told reporters that she could not rule out the upper chamber making amendments to the budget bill even after the House is adjourned for the summer recess.

"All possibilities can be envisaged," she said. "If we have to recall the House, I guess the prime minister will have no choice."

Hervieux-Payette said the Senate is not delaying the bill and will speed up Second reading and refer it to a committee next week where Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams and Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald have requested to testify. 

She also said Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert may also make an appearance. On Wednesday, Calvert announced his government was examining taking up Prime Minister Stephen Harper's challenge to take the federal government to court over budget changes to equalization. 

Hervieux-Payette said she is not certain if the Senate will be able to get the bill passed before the government's end-of-month deadline. 

News about Senate threats to delay and amend the bill are giving the Tories fodder to attack the un-elected upper chamber. 

"I guess they're being very responsible for their electorate," said Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay.

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