Tory caucus to prepare for
[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:20 p.m. September 6, 2005]
OTTAWA — The Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party said Tuesday that his party is expecting the minority Liberal government will attempt to orchestrate their own defeat in the House of Commons and force an election this fall before the findings of the Gomery report are released.
In an interview with PoliticsWatch, Conservative MP Peter MacKay said preparing for a possible early election will be a priority at Wednesday's Conservative caucus meeting in Halifax.
He said MPs will discuss election readiness and how to make sure they're not caught off guard by a "sneaky and disingenuous" Liberal attempt to collapse their own government and blame the opposition parties.
The Liberals could orchestrate their defeat by introducing a financial bill or other item that "will put the opposition parties offside," according to MacKay, who added that he did not think that was out of the realm of possibility for Prime Minister Paul Martin.
Describing Martin as the "most disingenuous opportunistic prime minister we've ever had," MacKay said Martin "would blame us for Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance" if it helped him stay in power.
In April of this year, Martin made a televised address to the nation in which he promised an election
call 30 days after the publication of the final report of the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal.
At the time, the Liberals were trailing the Conservatives in the polls because of some of the stunning inquiry testimony detailing how Liberal officials in Quebec received cash in envelopes from the head of firms
who had been the beneficiaries of millions in sponsorship program contracts.
The Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois were trying to put forward motions of non-confidence in the House against the government at the time to force an election. But since then the Liberals have rebounded in the polls and the opposition parties have toned down their election bravado.
Gomery's deadline for his final report is December 15, meaning the PM would call an election before January 15 for late February or early March.
But with the Liberals safely ahead in the polls, many Liberal MPs are now publicly grumbling about having to campaign during the coldest period of the year and there have been calls to move the election date back to the spring.
A fall election would also prevent a winter election, but MacKay said the Tories plan to hold the PM to his promise to
call the election 30 days after Gomery.
"He went on national television and made this tearful, pathetic plea for time. We're going to give him that time."
MacKay said he became suspicious about the prime minister keeping his promise to hold an election after Gomery after the PM was asked about it at the Liberal caucus meeting in Regina last month.
The PM repeated his promise to call an election 30 days after Gomery, but qualified his answer when he said, "If the opposition hasn't forced an election prematurely, there will be an election call."
MacKay suggested the PM was "telegraphing his next move" when he made that comment.
The Conservatives are holding their caucus meeting in Atlantic Canada, a region where the party
was unable to make significant gains in the last election.
"We felt it was time to come here and demonstrate a commitment and understanding and a presence and a growing presence here in Atlantic Canada," said MacKay, who is from Nova Scotia.
"I don't think there's any safe seats for Liberal cabinet ministers out here when people hear the results of Gomery and start contemplating what they've had in government for 12 years and start thinking about ethics and what this government has failed to deliver and what they did in cutting the Sea King helicopter program."
He also said the party plans to make a number of policy announcements on education, security and the environment in the coming weeks.
On Tuesday, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper announced that if elected his party would provide a capital gains exemption for fishermen.
The exemption would apply to the first $500,000 of qualifying fishing property that is transferred within a family.
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