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Martin says Yes to Layton  

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:45 p.m. October 20, 2005]

OTTAWA  — Prime Minister Paul Martin agreed in the House of a Commons to a request by NDP Leader Jack Layton to a sit down meeting to discuss health care. 
   
In a theatrical moment in the House, Layton used his opening question in question period to ask for a meeting with Martin to discuss private health care.

"My question is for the Prime Minister. Would he be willing to sit down and have a discussion?"

In his response, Martin attacked the Conservatives for not want to see Parliament work, but praised Layton for his spirit of cooperation. 

"Under those circumstances, I would be more than happy to sit down with the leader of the NDP," Martin said. 

Layton thanked the PM and said his office would contact the PM to set up a meeting. 

"We've been clear that we want to see some rules to protect public health care," Layton said to reporters after question period. 

"We have some very specific proposals. We want to see rules that simply say the transfer of funds to provinces has to be in the context of stopping the growth of private health care. And that has to be set down as a firm set of rules," he said. 

"We want to see action on that. Very concrete action."

The Layton-Martin meeting comes after Layton made threats earlier in the week to defeat the government if Parliament didn't start taking action on a number of issues. 

However, Layton's demands not to support the government appeared to pose no serious threat of a fall election because Layton was willing to give about a month to cooperate. By that time a defeat of the government would mean an election during the Christmas holiday. 

Layton and Martin reached an agreement in the spring that saw the NDP support the Liberals on all confidence votes in exchange for $4.5 billion in budgetary spending. 

That agreement was hatched out during a meeting between the two men in a Toronto Hotel room.

It ended in July when the new spending bill received Royal Assent in the Senate. 

Conservative House leader Jay Hill said he was not surprised to see Martin and Layton meeting again. 

"It won't be the first time that they shared a hotel room," said Hill. "So that they're going to go find a room somewhere doesn't surprise me."

Hill said despite the new cooperation between the NDP and the Liberals he is not writing off the possibility of defeating the government down. 

"That having been said, it would have to be a pretty extraordinary conditions to prompt a Christmas election." 

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