PM says he's meeting, not bargaining,
[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:30 p.m. October 24, 2005]
OTTAWA — NDP Leader Jack Layton will meet Prime Minister Paul Martin at 24 Sussex Drive Tuesday morning for an hour-long meeting in which Layton will put the NDP's support of the minority government on the line.
Layton said Monday that he wants "action" from the prime minister this fall on a number of issues, including new rules to prevent the spread of private health care in Canada.
Layton also wants some sign of action on pollution and ethics, including tighter rules for lobbyists.
"What I'm looking for is some demonstrable evidence of action," Layton told reporters after question period. "It can take any number of forms. I'm not going to precisely lay those out right now. I'd rather see whether he's willing to act or whether it's going to be a friendly chat with no expectation of outcomes. That's not our view."
While Layton wants to see some action, the PM stressed in a press conference with reporters on Monday not to expect any deals with the NDP arising from the meeting.
"We're not sitting down to bargain," he said. "What we're doing is we're going to sit down to ensure as best I would hope between the two parties how we can make Parliament work."
While he said there would be no bargaining, Martin did say the discussions with Layton will be "important," and the two men will "hear each other out and then essentially put in place whatever is required."
The Liberals survived a number of confidence votes in the spring after Layton brokered $4.6 billion in new spending from the Martin government in return for NDP support until a new budget was approved in the Senate in July.
That agreement came after a meeting between the two men at a Toronto hotel.
Layton said Monday that he will consult with caucus after his meeting with Martin and if no action is seen "then the government should not count on the support of the NDP in the weeks to come."
The NDP leader would not put a specific deadline for action, but said it would be "very soon."
The minority government is facing a potential voter backlash next week when Justice John Gomery releases the fact-finding report on the sponsorship scandal.
Sun Media columnist Greg Weston reported over the weekend that "Liberal insiders" are fearful of a fall election because of a combination of recent spending and patronage scandals in the background when Gomery reports.
According to Weston, the Liberal war room is on "high alert" and are concerned about the possibility of Layton, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe all joining forces and demanding a confidence vote the day after Gomery reports.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives are not taking seriously Layton and Martin's latest meeting.
"It's really becoming quite farcical," Conservative MP Peter MacKay said.
"You can't take the NDP seriously on anything when they get up and criticize and castigate the government and then prop them up on votes and support them in keeping them in power."
MacKay said he does not expect Layton will have much success in convincing the PM to put in place new rules to stop the growth of for-profit health care.
"I think he's whistling by the graveyard. I don't think the prime minister is going to do that. I mean for starters I guess he should get a commitment by the prime minister that he won't go to his own private clinic in Montreal."
Martin's personal physician operates a private clinic in Montreal. Martin denies paying for private health services and says he uses his health-care card when he visits his doctor.
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