Harper won't rule out voting for
[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:30 p.m. November 8, 2005]
OTTAWA — A week
after he took NDP Leader Jack Layton to task for trying to strike a
health-care deal with the Liberal government, Conservative Leader
Stephen Harper would not rule out voting in favour of the
government's supplementary estimates early next month because it
could contain things his party agreed with.
The estimates are a money bill and their defeat would prompt the
defeat of the government and trigger an election.
Observers believe the opposition parties could defeat the government
on the estimates on December 8 and escape individual blame from the
Liberals for tabling their own opposition day non-confidence motion
that would trigger an election campaign that would span through the
"We will not vote against things unless we
disagree with them," Harper said at a press conference in
"We are not going to start voting against individual
pieces of legislation we might agree with just to defeat the
government because we don't want to hand the government an issue
that should not be an issue in the election.
"So we'll look at those estimates and
what's being requested."
On the day Justice John Gomery released his report on the
sponsorship scandal, Harper criticized Layton for trying to secure a
health-care agreement with the prime minister in exchange for NDP
support on confidence votes.
"I can't comprehend the position," he said. "I can't
understand how you can say, 'I'll support the government because
they do something I like, even though they're corrupt.'"
Harper's comments come on the same day Prime Minister Paul Martin closed the door to further talks with the NDP and all but dared the other opposition party leaders to defeat his minority government before Christmas.
Martin made the comments a day after NDP Leader
Jack Layton called a Liberal proposal on health-care reform
unacceptable and said he no longer would support the minority
Liberal government on a confidence vote.
The prime minister sounded almost unmoved by Layton, the man who
saved his government in the spring, and his new stance on defeating
"I made it very clear to Mr. Layton that proposal is now government policy and we're proceeding with it and if Jack Layton wants to join with us to protect health care, he is more than
welcome," the PM said.
"I'm not going to join the opposition in playing a lot of political
Martin was referring to the Abbott and Costello routine the three
opposition party leaders are now engaged in now that Layton said he
won't back the government.
After weeks of saying they would not bring down the government
unless Layton was onside, the two other opposition leaders changed
their tune after Layton's comments on Monday.
Both Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles and Harper said that Layton must
be the one who pulls the plug on the Liberals and bring forward a
non-confidence motion during one of the seven opposition days coming
in the next five weeks.
"Our experience suggests that should we
again attempt to bring down the government, Mr. Layton will use that
attempt as leverage in his negotiations with the Liberals,"
Harper said during a speech to the Empire Club in Toronto.
"I have no intention of allowing a
Conservative motion to be a bargaining chip in a parliamentary poker
There are currently 308 seats in the House of Commons, with one vacancy for the late Chuck Cadman. The Speaker is a Liberal and can only vote to break a tie. The opposition parties need a combined 154 votes to topple the government.
Currently the combined 98 seats for the Conservatives and 54 seats for the Bloc Quebecois could topple the government with the support of two of the four independent MPs.
But the addition of 18 NDP votes would give the three opposition parties 170 votes without the support of any of the independents and would result in a clear defeat of the government in the House.
The Conservatives have first crack at defeating
the government on Tuesday when they get the first opposition day
motion of the fall sitting.
Harper has already ruled out tabling a non-confidence motion, but he
said his motion will be "interesting."
The NDP could bring forward a non-confidence motion the following
week, but Harper said there is no guarantee he could support that
motion if it's not correctly worded.
"I think the best way to do it is clear a motion of
non-confidence. Probably a motion that specifies the government's
"I don't want the NDP to come forward with
some motion that we're against tax cuts and we're against
health-care. If it's going to be a substantive motion it should
obviously focus on the government's record of corruption."
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