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NDP prefers post-Gomery election

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:00 p.m. August 20, 2005]

OTTAWA  — The NDP's deal to keep the Liberals in power may be done, but a top official with the party told PoliticsWatch Monday the party is in no hurry to topple the minority Liberal government this fall.       
 

"Our preference of course would be the same as most Canadians, which is we would like to see the Gomery report before going to the polls," said Karl Belanger, press secretary to NDP Leader Jack Layton. "But if we have to go before that we will be prepared to do so.

"A lot of information could be brought to light and it's important for Canadians to know all the facts before making a judgement."

Prime Minister Paul Martin has promised to call an election 30 days after the publication of Justice Gomery's final report on the sponsorship scandal, which is expected to be released in mid-December.

After a nationally televised address to the nation in April making the plea to Canadians to avoid having an election before Gomery completed his report, Layton and Prime Minister Paul Martin met in a Toronto hotel room and hammered out an agreement. 

In that agreement the NDP won $4.5 billion in increased social spending in the budget in exchange for NDP support of the Liberals on all confidence votes in the House until the new budget received Royal Assent.

The budget deal received Royal Assent in the Senate in July effectively ending the NDP's support of the Liberals. 

In an interview that appeared in Le Devoir on Monday, Layton would not rule out forming a coalition with Bloc and the Conservatives to topple the Liberal minority government. 

Belanger also said such a partnership cannot be ruled out and the party could support an opposition day motion of no-confidence in the government.

"It will be on a case-by-case basis," he said. "We'll have to see what the motion says."

Belanger said the NDP has not approached the Liberals or any other parties as of yet to make a similar deal. 

"At this point we're not out there looking for a deal," he said.

However, he said the party has a number of policy proposals it would like to see at the top of the agenda of the Commons in the fall, including Layton's recent call for an inquiry into soaring gas prices. 

Al Toulin, a spokesman for House Leader Tony Valeri, said the end of the special arrangement with the NDP means the Liberals are back where they were after last year's federal election. 

"We've always been in a position of minority and facing the possibility that any combination of the three parties could bring our end about," he said. "That's always been the situation we've faced. 

"There's not much we can do about that. All we try to do is bring forward legislation that will have some levels of support in Parliament."

Toulin said the government will likely face a confidence vote in December when estimates have to be voted on but noted "nothing is set in stone yet."

Without the support of 19 NDP MPs, the Liberals have 132 votes in the House of Commons but need 154 votes to pass bills if all MPs are present.

When the Conservatives and the Bloc were pushing to defeat the government in the spring, the Conservatives were ahead of the Liberals in the polls. 

But since then things have changed and the Conservatives may not be as eager for an election.

An August poll by SES Research found the Liberals with a 14-point lead on the Conservatives with 39 per cent support compared to 25 per cent. 

And Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's office has seen numerous departures of key personnel over the past two months, including a director of communications that still has not been replaced.   

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