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Harper and Duceppe supportive of Layton's election motion

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:00 p.m. November 9, 2005]

Over a year since this photo was taken, Gilles Duceppe, Stephen Harper and Jack Layton are on the same page again and will meet this weekend to discuss how to topple the Liberal government. 

OTTAWA  — The opposition party leaders appeared to be closer than they have been in months to toppling the Liberal government on Wednesday after NDP Leader Jack Layton said he would put forward a motion demanding Parliament be dissolved in early January for a February election date.  

"This avoids the holiday election nobody wants," Layton said of his proposal It allows Parliament to pass the housekeeping laws before it and for the First Ministers' Meeting on Aboriginal issues to occur."

Layton's proposal was conditionally embraced by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who told reporters the three opposition leaders have agreed to meet before MPs return to Ottawa next week. 

"I think we're moving rapidly to a three-party consensus to wrap up this Parliament in a responsible way and put the question of the government's fate in the people of Canada where it belongs," Harper said.

Harper has been deferring questions about defeating the government in the House to this fall and has been critical of him for trying to make deals with a government that Layton criticizes for ethics in the House. 

He also said he would not use one of his opposition days to vote down the government unless he had a clear commitment from Layton.

But on Wednesday, Harper said Layton is now onside with the other opposition leaders. 

"In principle, Mr. Layton is clear that he is not interested in an agreement with the Liberal party at this point," Harper said.  He's interested in bringing them down. He's been clear to me on that privately."

Duceppe said at a press conference in Quebec City that more important than the motion is that all three opposition leaders no longer have confidence in the government. 

"I do think we've made an important step forward," said Duceppe, who said they leaders will meet Sunday or Monday.

The government's supplementary estimates must be passed before the end of the year, and that is a money bill that if defeated would trigger an election. 

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Paul Martin said if the opposition parties defeated the the government before Christmas they would be derailing other important initiatives the government is working on.

"It is very hard for me to understand why one would put in jeopardy the funding that we want to give to lower income families to protect them from the rising cost of fuel oil. It's very hard for me to say that pensions for senior citizens should be put in jeopardy."

What's not clear is whether the government would be bound to follow such an opposition day motion as proposed by Layton. 

The opposition parties have passed numerous opposition day motions over the past year, which have been ignored by the Liberals, including one demanding an inquiry into the Air India bombing.

"I have every confidence this is something that can be done," Layton said. 

Harper said the opposition parties don't have the power to set an election date, but their combined power could control the activity within the House. 

"There may be ways we can limit the government's options in terms of election dates and quite frankly we may be able to present the government with a proposal for political reasons the government would have to accept," Harper said.

The NDP had been engaged in talks with the government about health-care reform, but those talks reached an impasse on Monday when Layton rejected the government's latest counteroffer and said he could not support the government in a confidence motion. 

Martin has committed to calling an election within 30 days of the release of Justice John Gomery's first report on the sponsorship scandal which is expected on February 1. 

The opposition parties, however, believe Gomery's first report in which he found Liberal officials participated in a kickback scheme to enrich themselves and funnel money to the party, is all the evidence they need to defeat the government.

"The fact is Judge Gomery's report has come out and illustrated a culture of entitlement and an ethical standard which is not something that we can accept or that Canadians can accept," said Layton.

"And the Liberal party shouldn't have the exclusive right - they're not in a majority situation here - to establish when it is that Canadians will judge their own behaviour."

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