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Layton ups threats

[PoliticsWatch Updated 6:00 p.m. November 2, 2005]

OTTAWA  — NDP Leader Jack Layton sent the strongest signal to date on Wednesday that he is willing to defeat the Liberal government on a confidence vote if the minority Liberal government doesn't take his demands for action on a number of issues seriously.

But Layton's timetable may not be soon enough for the other opposition leaders. 

The NDP and the Liberals have had discussions over the last two weeks about an NDP proposal to prevent the growth of public health care in Canada. 

Layton has requested a counterproposal from the Liberals based on talks his health critic, Jean Crowder, had with Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh on Monday. 

"If we don't see significant and serious action tomorrow that will mean that this parliament is not going to produce positive results for Canadians on key issues," Layton said. 

"And there will be confidence tests in the weeks to come and the lack of response by the government will determine how we will vote on those confidence tests."

Both Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper have said that the only way to have an election without it interfering with the Christmas holiday would be for a confidence vote to be held this week. 

The Liberals are currently in damage control mode as they are dealing with the fallout from a mixed sponsorship report from Justice John Gomery. Gomery's report exonerated Prime Minister Paul Martin on the one hand but on the other hand said people in the Liberal party participated in a kickback scheme which funneled sponsorship money through ad firms into the coffers of the party. 

The House is in recess next week. The first opposition days where opposition parties could bring forward non-confidence motions would be the following week. But that would result in an election date on the day after Boxing Day. 

Even though there are no confidence opportunities in the House this week, both Harper and Duceppe have suggested they could bring down the government this week. 

One scenario could see all three opposition leaders boycotting the House of Commons. 

"On any day (the PM) has to be able to prove he has the support (of the House)," Conservative House leader Jay Hill said. 

"If all three oppositions were to say, 'Look we're not supportive of these guys.' Anybody can do the math and know the prime minister would no longer have the support of the House of Commons."

Hill also would not rule out the Conservatives bringing forward a non-confidence motion in mid-November, even though that could result in a campaign cutting through the holidays.

"It's certainly possible," he said. 

"We're not ruling anything out. We're never going to give these guys carte blanche to do what they want with taxpayers money."

But one Conservative MP told reporters after Hill made his comments that he wasn't prepared to go door to door to campaign and carol. 

A defeat of the government would have to be "this week," the MP said. 

Earlier in the day, Harper continued to blast Layton trying to cut deals with Liberals, while at the same condemning them harshly for corruption related to Gomery and their relationship with lobbyists. 

"I don't think you can be wishy-washy on corruption," Harper told reporters. "Judge Gomery has been definitive and so Mr. Layton has to make a decision. I don't think Jack Layton can go in the next election having been ambivalent on the entire issue of corruption."

Harper also continued his attack in question period on sponsorship, demanding the prime minister have federal lawyers sue the Liberal party for any money lost in the sponsorship scandal. 

On Tuesday, Martin announced the Liberal party would repay the federal treasury $1.14 million for money it received as a result of Gomery's findings. 

But Harper criticized the Liberal party for selecting the amount it should repay.

"In our political system, we do not get to decide our own penalty, unless, of course, we believe we are above the law," Harper said.

"Will the prime minister admit that the Liberal Party should be sued, unless he thinks the Liberal Party is, indeed, above the law?"

Public Works Minister Scott Brison said the Liberals came up with the $1.14 million because it "reflects the analysis of the facts in Justice Gomery's report."

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