Harper and Duceppe call for Martin to
hold vote today: Martin bargains for time
[PoliticsWatch Updated 2:00 p.m. May 11, 2005]
OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe have turned down an offer from Prime Minister Paul Martin to hold a vote of confidence on the budget next week.
Both Harper and Duceppe called on Martin to hold a vote in the House on Wednesday afternoon or lose the cooperation of the two opposition parties.
"My simple response is, we're waiting for the government to have its vote today," Harper said after meeting his caucus.
"Until the government has its vote, it will not get any cooperation from the opposition."
On Tuesday night, the Bloc and the Conservatives defeated the government on a vote of non-confidence in the House of Commons. But the government is saying its experts view the vote as a procedural motion.
Nonetheless, headlines in morning newspapers and Web sites around the world sent the message that Martin's government had been defeated and was refusing to resign.
On Wednesday morning, Martin held an emergency cabinet meeting before participating in the weekly Liberal caucus meeting.
When he emerged, he stepped up to a podium and read a prepared statement promising to hold a vote on the budget next Thursday.
"On Thursday, May 19, I will be in Ottawa," he said. "I am proposing that there will be on that day a vote on the budget bill and that vote will be a matter of confidence.
"If the government loses the vote next Thursday I will seek the dissolution of Parliament."
Martin set Thursday as the date of the vote to allow him to meet with the Queen when she arrives in Regina and so it will come after the B.C. election set for May 17.
He called the vote in the House on Tuesday night "important" but "not a matter of confidence."
However, the real reason Martin may be waiting for next week is because Martin does not have the numbers to win a vote in the House this week.
The Liberals lost the confidence vote on Tuesday evening by just three votes.
Two of its cabinet ministers - Irwin Cotler and John Efford - were away. Cotler was attending a funeral and Efford was undergoing medical treatment.
Efford is still not available to be in the House on Wednesday.
Meanwhile Chuck Cadman, the independent MP whose vote on the government side, would create a tied vote that would be broken in favour of the government by the Liberal speaker told CPAC Wednesday that he will not be in Ottawa until next week.
Cadman is still undecided on which way he will vote, but he is Martin's only hope to avoid an election this spring.
While both Duceppe and Harper have said the government will not get cooperation from the opposition if the vote is not held Wedneday, they did not define what they will do.
Duceppe has not ruled out writing Governor General Adrienne Clarkson requesting she intervene.
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