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Budget vote set for Thursday 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 1:15 p.m. May 16, 2005]

OTTAWA  — The opposition parties will get the opportunity to force Prime Minister Paul Martin to resign on Thursday when the House of Commons will vote on two budget bills. 
 
Government House Leader Tony Valeri received unanimous consent in the House on Monday morning to put both Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 to a vote in the House on Thursday. 

Either money bill is considered a matter of confidence and their defeat would force the government to resign, triggering a spring election. 

Newfoundland Conservative MP Loyala Hearn asked for consent to remove the Atlantic Accord - an offshore oil revenue agreement with Newfoundland and Nova Scotia -- from the budget implementation bill. Hearn failed to receive the unanimous consent from the House needed to make such a change. 

The Liberals are hoping to use the defeat of the budget against the Conservatives in Atlantic Canada during the campaign, blaming the opposition for effectively killing the Accord. 

"The Atlantic Accord is (in the budget) and it should assure speedy passage of the Atlantic Accord," Valeri said. 

That is if the budget passes. 

In the latest development, it appears the Liberals may have lost the support of one of the two undecided independent MPs it needs to ensure a tie vote in the House on Thursday. 

"There's a clear consensus that Parliament has become dysfunctional, that it's time the people decided who they want to be the government," Independent MP David Kilgour told CBC News

Part of that dysfunction has been the acrimonious on Parliament Hill over the pass two weeks, with both the Liberals and Conservatives accusing each other of being racists and suggestions that the prime minister timed this week's confidence around the absence of a Conservative MP who was scheduled for surgery on Wednesday. 

Speaking to reporters in Halifax on Monday, the PM blamed the Conservatives for the atmosphere on the Hill. 

"Clearly there is a lack of basic civility and respect," said the PM. "There prevails today a culture in Parliament in which reputations are casually smeared and anger and personal insult are the rhetorical devices of choice."
Martin called on Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to join on him in a pledge to "maintain a respectful dialogue."

"We agree the tone should be civil and respectful," said Conservative spokesman Mike Storeshaw.

But he pointed out the "really nasty personal attacks" so far have been by Liberals. 

Immigration Minister Joe Volpe, who compared the Conservatives to the Ku Klux Klan, and Treasury Board President Reg Alcock, who questioned where a Conservative MP ranked in the "gene pool," both had to apologize for their remarks. 

"If we're going to actually raise the level of debate and make it more civil, we need to avoid that stuff altogether and that goes for Liberals as well."

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