Layton disappointed with meeting with
Martin: Gives Liberals "days" to act or lose NDP support
[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:20 p.m. October 25, 2005]
OTTAWA — Calling his meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin a "disappointment," NDP Leader Jack Layton said Tuesday the minority Liberal government has days not weeks to act to prevent the growth of private health care or lose the support of the NDP in the House of Commons.
Layton and the NDP helped prop up the Liberals during numerous confidence votes in the House of Commons in the spring after Martin and Layton brokered a deal for an additional $4.6 billion in new social spending.
That deal was brokered after a single meeting between Martin and Layton in a Toronto hotel. But Layton was unable to get similar results with Martin after a 45-minute meeting at 24 Sussex.
"Today was not an encouraging day," Layton told reporters after question period.
"The prime minister did not agree with us that there was this problem with privatization."
"We're saying that if there's not action on these kinds of issues, rapidly, significant action, then Mr. Martin can't count on our support."
Layton said he would continue to press the government for some action on health care and other issues in the coming days.
A further meeting on health care between Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and NDP health critic Jean Crowder is planned.
An aide to the prime minister told Reuters there was "no discussion of a quid pro quo to secure voting support" during the meeting with Layton.
Layton's comment that he wants action in days is significant because there is only a two-week window of opportunity for the opposition parties to bring down the government and force an election before the Christmas holiday.
The government gerrymandered the opposition days this fall to ensure that if an opposition party uses its day for a confidence vote the earliest possible election date would be the day after Boxing Day.
But the opposition parties could try to put through a non-binding concurrence motion from a committee during the first two weeks of November, which could force a pre-Christmas vote.
Currently, in the House of Commons the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois combined with the support of two independent MPs could topple the minority government.
But if the NDP were to join the two other opposition parties in voting against the government then the defeat of the government would be a slam-dunk.
The Liberals are said to be on edge about next week's release of the first report on the sponsorship scandal by Justice John Gomery and the potential for
it to reawaken voter anger with the government.
Prime Minister Paul Martin has promised to call an election within 30 days of the publication of Gomery's second report in February. But that report will make recommendations on how to prevent a similar breakdown of government systems from happening in the future.
The first report to be released next week is considered to be the more politically explosive report.
When asked by PoliticsWatch if the NDP believed the first Gomery report was enough for Canadians to make up their minds about who was responsible, a senior NDP official said, "It depends."
Conservative MP Monte Solberg would not rule out his party attempting to topple the government after Gomery issues his first report.
"We're not asking for an election right this moment but we're not giving them carte blanche either," Solberg said. "And if we have an opportunity and we feel the government has completely compromised their trust, yes we'll bring them down."
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