Liberals unwilling to prop up Harper

Started by Sportsdude, Feb 16 06 12:41

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[DIV id=headline][H2]Liberals unwilling to prop up Harper[/H2][H3 id=deck]Graham says onus now on Bloc and NDP to support Conservative minority [/H3][/DIV][DIV id=author][P class=byline]CAMPBELL CLARK

[P class=source]From Thursday's Globe and Mail

[UL class=columnistInfo][/UL][/DIV][DIV id=article style="FONT-SIZE: 100%"][!-- dateline --]Ottawa[!-- /dateline --] — Opposition Leader Bill Graham said he will not be afraid to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government, even though the Liberal Party will spend much of the year in a leadership race.

Mr. Harper must either accommodate Liberal positions on key issues such as child care and income-tax cuts or turn to the New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois for support in the House of Commons, Mr. Graham said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

He placed the onus for avoiding a quick election on the New Democrats and the Bloc, saying they triggered the last election out of political opportunism.

[DIV class="bigbox ad" id=boxR][SCRIPT type=text/XXXXscript ads="1"]aPs="boxR";[/SCRIPT][SCRIPT type=text/XXXXscript]var boxRAC = fnTdo('a'+'ai',300,250,ai,'j',nc);[/SCRIPT][/DIV]"We're not in the business of propping up the government," he said. "We're the Official Opposition. And that is our role, and we will stick to our points where they are important to the future of the country.

"Other parties will have to decide whether they want to compromise on this, because they're the ones — the Canadian public very well knows — that put us in this position. They're the ones that created the Harper government. They're the ones that are going to have to accommodate it."

Mr. Graham said he believes Canadians do not want to go to the polls again soon, and he recognizes the possible consequences of his warning: "It could lead to an election."

His comments put the other parties in the position of deciding whether the Liberals can afford to force another election, or whether it is more bluster than warning.

The Liberal Party is set to embark on a wide-open leadership race that will not be decided until November or next February — depending on rules to be set next month — and it is not clear who would lead the party into an election if Mr. Harper's government fell before then.

Former prime minister Paul Martin remains the titular leader of the party, but Mr. Graham, as Leader of the Opposition, has taken on all of the leader's duties.

Mr. Graham said the party leadership has assured him that they could make a quick decision on electing a leader, if necessary, and it would not necessarily be him or Mr. Martin. "It could be anybody," he said.

Mr. Harper's party won 124 of the 308 seats in the Commons in the Jan. 23 federal election, but will have 125 members when Parliament resumes because of the defection of Trade Minister David Emerson, who was elected as a Liberal.

"Mr. Harper is not a majority government," Mr. Graham said. "So he has to accept the fact that he's in a position that has to look for accommodations if he wants to continue to be the government of Canada."

He said the Liberals intend to push their vision of child care — transfers to provinces to create subsidized daycare spaces — over the Conservative plan to send monthly cheques to parents.

He sharply criticized the NDP, which now says it will propose a subsidized plan in the coming session of the Commons, saying the New Democrats killed such a plan by forcing the election.

"To some extent, I'm admiring of the chutzpah of it," he said. "But in other respects I'm astonished that they have the courage to do it."

The Liberals will also oppose Mr. Harper's pledge to cut the GST, if it means a reversal of Liberal government income-tax cuts, he said. "When they find out the consequences of this, people are going to be astonished."

Mr. Graham said his early days in the job have been consumed with organizational matters. He said he expects to move into Stornoway, the Opposition Leader's official residence.

"I'm learning as I go," he said in the wood-panelled Opposition Leader's office on Parliament Hill, which still showed some signs of his weekend move.

"Two weeks ago, I was the defence minister. Today, I'm doing a totally different job."

Yesterday, Mr. Graham appointed Jane Stewart, who held three cabinet portfolios under Jean Chrétien, as his chief of staff, citing her experience and her good relations with members of the Liberal caucus, which she chaired from 1993 to 1997, as key qualities for the job.

Mr. Graham said part of his job will be keeping the opposition together despite the tensions created when its members split into leadership campaigns.

"Some of us have to be there to be the glue that holds the party together while the constituent parts are all fighting one another to see who is going to end up being the new leader."

"We can't stop here. This is bat country."