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Harper dares opposition parties to force an election
Politics Watch ® News Services
October 3, 2007, updated 6:15 p.m.
http://www.politicswatch.com/harper-october3-2007.htm

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

OTTAWA  (PoliticsWatch.com) —  Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday it is time for opposition parties  to "fish or cut bait" and either force an election or support the key elements of the minority Conservative government's throne speech throughout the next session of Parliament.   

Harper warned the opposition parties that he will consider key elements unveiled in the upcoming throne speech as matters of confidence when they later come to a vote in Parliament. 

"It's not a choice between we obstruct you or we have an election," Harper said at a press conference in Ottawa. "The choice is you either force us to election or give us this mandate."

"We will be interpreting a positive result, a positive vote on the speech from the throne as a mandate to consider the major elements of the throne speech and the major elements of the government's program to be matters of confidence going forward."

Harper's comments are sending a signal that the Conservatives will no longer view just the budget and throne speech as the only confidence votes in the Commons in the new session of Parliament. 

"You can't pass the throne speech one day and the next day say, 'Well, we didn't actually mean to do it' or 'We didn't give you a mandate,'" he added. "We will take it as a mandate and we will take it as an ongoing question of confidence to get those things done." 

Parliament returns on October 16 with a speech from the throne. The government will face three votes of confidence on the throne speech. Due to the make up of the minority Parliament, the government needs the support of  just one of the three opposition parties to receive enough votes to pass legislation.

The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have already signalled they will not prop up the minority government when the throne speech is unveiled. 

That has placed the Liberals in the awkward position of having to vote against the throne speech and force an election or keep the government in power. 

The Liberals are currently in a state of disarray, especially in Quebec, where candidates and potential candidates have decided they will not run since the party lost three Quebec by-elections last month. 

Bryon Wilfert, a Liberal MP considered close to Liberal leader Stephane Dion, has publicly mused about Liberal MPs abstaining from the throne speech in order to avoid an election that the party appears unprepared for. 

The prime minister's comments at the press conference Wednesday will undoubtedly put more pressure on the Liberals throughout the session of Parliament.  

As for the throne speech, Harper mentioned tax cuts and criminal justice reforms as two issues that will be included in the throne speech. 

The prime minister said he has had meetings with NDP leader Jack Layton and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe in advance of the throne speech, but has not met with Dion. 

Despite his willingness to receive some input on the throne speech, Harper suggested the Liberals and Bloc were in no position to be making demands considering the results of last month's byelections in Quebec where each party lost a seat. 

“I wouldn't have predicted the results of those by-elections would be a message to Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Dion to make non-negotiable demands and otherwise demand a general election,” he said. “That would not be my interpretation of the by-elections.”

:  Related Links

> House of Commons returns October 16- What to expect

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