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Martin doesn't have "democratic authority" to make budget promises, Harper says

[PoliticsWatch Updated 6:00 p.m. November 10, 2005]

OTTAWA  — Conservative Leader Stephen Harper blasted news reports Thursday that the Liberals were considering introducing tax cuts in their fiscal update next week, saying Prime Minister Paul Martin and his minority Liberal government no longer have "democratic authority" to do such things. 
  

The Toronto Star reported Thursday morning that Finance Minister Ralph Goodale's fiscal update will take on more of a budget flavour in the wake of a decision by the three opposition party leaders this week to push for an election in the first months of next year. 

"There are signals that the minority Liberals may turn Monday's economic statement into a mini-budget, and announce tax reductions and new spending," the Star reported. 

Fiscal statements normally do not contain or promise new spending and tax measures. Also unusual is a plan by finance officials to put reporters in a lock up to view the fiscal update details hours before Goodale announces them. Lock ups are usually reserved for budgets, not updates.

"What I think we don't want to see happen now is what happened in the spring," Harper said after a speech in Winnipeg.

"The government should not think this is an invitation now to go out and promise to spend tens of billions of taxpayers' dollars. They no longer have the moral or democratic authority to do that and I caution them against that course of action."

Goodale is set to unveil his fiscal update on Monday, the same day the three opposition leaders will meet to go over the details of NDP Leader Jack Layton's opposition day motion recommending the government call an election in early January for February. 

The minister is to deliver his update before the Commons finance committee. Conservative MP Monte Solberg is putting forward a motion to adjourn the committee to prevent Goodale from engaging in what he considers electioneering.

The Liberals are already dismissing Layton's motion and constitutional experts agree it will not be binding on the government. 

Harper said Thursday he agreed there limits to what an opposition party can demand of the government but added that opposition parties with a majority of votes "can do a lot to the future of unfolding of events" in the House.

When asked by a reporter in Toronto whether he has the authority to introduce long-term spending initiatives, Martin said, "Our responsibility is to govern. I intend to govern."

Martin said the finance minister delivers an economic update every year and its "inconceivable" the opposition parties would question it. 

He said if the opposition parties want to defeat his government then there are "mechanisms" they can use to do so.

"We'll go to an election if so, but until the election I'll govern," Martin said. 

Meanwhile, Layton told reporters in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday that he was holding out hope that Martin will accept the recommendation of the opposition parties to have a January election. 

Layton said if Martin rejects the wishes of the majority of the House of Commons then voters will have further evidence that Mr. Martin "doesn't mean it" when he talks about the democratic deficit.

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> Layton opens door for early election

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