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Budget will pass with Bloc support

[PoliticsWatch posted 5:35 p.m. March 19, 2007]

OTTAWA  — For the third time in less than a year, the Bloc Quebecois will help prop up the minority Conservative government this time by supporting the Tories' second federal budget tabled Monday. 
 
The budget includes $3.2 billion in new transfer payments to the provinces this year, with $919 million of that going to Quebec. 

The new money would have made it very difficult for the Bloc Quebecois to vote against the budget, especially in the middle of a provincial election campaign in Quebec. 

"We will support the budget," said Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe in a television interview. "It's 80 per cent of the amount we were asking. That's not bad."

The Liberals and the NDP rushed out while Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was reading the budget to say they were voting against it. 

But the Bloc leader said despite Flaherty's declaration that the days of federal-provincial bickering over the fiscal imbalance are over, the issue "is not settled" yet because a permanent mechanism to oversee a fair transfer system was not created. 

The Bloc's decision seems to avert for the time being an election campaign resulting from the defeat of what looks like a pre-election budget filled with targeted tax breaks at families and spending on the environment. 

The Conservatives have 125 seats in Canada's 308-seat House of Commons. When combined with the Bloc's 50 seats it is a wide enough margin to easily pass . Budget votes are confidence matters, meaning their defeat will result in the defeat of the government. .

When Flaherty tabled his budget in 2006 the Bloc was quick to support it, saying it was a transition budget and would be looking for measures addressing the fiscal imbalance in the next year.  

The Bloc also supported the minority Conservative government on a confidence motion to create a new border tax to implement the softwood lumber deal with the U.S. last fall. 

Flaherty's budget also appeared aimed at winning the support of the NDP, including a phase out the accelerated capital cost allowance for general investment in the oil sands by 2015. 

NDP Leader Jack Layton has been a vocal critic of the accelerated capital cost allowance. However, the new measures were not enough to get the NDP to support the budget. 

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion issued a statement on Monday afternoon explaining his party's decision not to support the budget. 

“This budget is further proof that the Harper government is more concerned about electioneering for the short term than helping the average Canadians succeed both now and in the future,” Dion said. 

However, Duceppe took exception with Dion's decision to quickly come out and oppose the budget given that Dion has repeatedly told reporters for the past few weeks that he does not want an election this year. 

"He went around Canada last week saying he doesn't want an election," Duceppe said. "If he doesn't want an election he should support the budget."

: Related Links

> Budget in Brief

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