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November 8, 2005
Tories Refuse To Play NDP Games

The Conservative leader, Stephen Harper, drew a line in the sand today and dared Jack Layton to finally push the Martin executive over it. Harper told Canadian journalists that he would not allow the NDP to use the Tories as a "bargaining chip" to extort a better deal on health care from the Liberals and PM Paul Martin, while Layton continued to stall on whether he would support an explicit no-confidence vote early in the next session of Parliament:

During Tuesday's speech a campaign-style address which focused mainly on Liberal shortcomings and the findings of the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal Mr. Harper noted that his party had tried to defeat the Liberals in the spring.

He said that effort was born out of concern over revelations at the Gomery commission but was ultimately unsuccessful because the NDP struck a deal with the Liberals. Right now, he said, he can't win a confidence vote in the House of Commons without the NDP support.

"I have no intention of allowing a conservative motion to be a bargaining chip in a parliamentary poker game," Mr. Harper said.

"If Mr. Layton wants now or at any time to bring down the Liberal Party and to bring it down clearly over their corruption, their overall record as a government, including their corruption, if he wants to do that and initiate measures, I can assure you he will have our support and our co-operation with that effort."

If that doesn't happen, he added, that "Canadians will have to assess his [Mr. Layton's] ambivalence on corruption."

Voters already know that Layton made a deal with the devil in the spring, a deal that allowed Martin to just barely survive a no-confidence motion on a budget bill -- one to which Martin added $4 billion in social spending to buy Layton's support. It shouldn't take much to remind Canadians of that rather spectacular escape that Layton's sellout allowed. However, it appears that Layton wants to remind people anyway, and his public game of footsie with the disgraced Liberal leadership has so far proven that strategy successful.

Harper, in this case, has the right idea. While the Liberals have done a pretty good job of selling Harper as a scary Conservative with some kind of hidden agenda, Layton has actually played the role out publicly to Martin's benefit, at least so far. As long as Harper shows that he will not accept such politicking and insists on an honest and straightforward no-confidence vote on the real issues -- and everyone knows that to be Adscam and Liberal corruption, not some technical problem in budgeting -- it lessens the effect of the "hidden agenda" smear.

Harper could be PM in two months if he played ball with Jack Layton, but the integrity of the process means more to him than the result. Harper needs to seize on that message and drive it home. Not only will that resonate with scandal-weary Canadians, but it will serve to shame Layton into doing the right thing when the no-confidence motion gets mooted. Canadians will see that a man who stands up for the integrity of the process even when a shortcut could bring him the success he craves rarely can also have a hidden agenda for dark purposes. If Harper makes that the theme of Commons in this session, he will eventually lead his party back to power ... and he will have done it with the honesty and openness that the corrupt opposition only wishes it could proclaim.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 8, 2005 9:23 PM

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» A message to Stephen Harper from Stephen Taylor - Conservative Party of Canada Pundit
I understood the logic of putting the ball in Jack Layton's court to call the election. The guy seemed serious enough and did state unequivocally that he would not vote confidence in the government at the next confidence vote. Giving the NDP leader the... [Read More]

Tracked on November 9, 2005 8:51 PM

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