It seems that Harper has gone into co-operation mode at least in some areas. The budget will probably contain enough of goodies and stimulus to buy off Ignatieff and the Liberals. Strange that Brison trusts now the same government that tried to make them eat the fecal economic update and who dodged the reality that the government did not have the confidence of parliament by proroguing parliament. Seems everyone is acting as if they are changing gears, all because this is what Canadians want apparently! Actually it seems that many core Conservatives are probably in a flap because Harper is now acting like the "socialists" such as Bush in the US. Imagine how the Obama stimulus will be looked at by these clowns. Maybe they will start speaking of the United Soviet States of America!...
Brison 'confident' government will address Liberal concerns
Last Updated: Monday, December 15, 2008 1:45 PM ET
Opposition Liberals say they're hopeful Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will move quickly to address their concerns following "constructive" pre-budget discussions on how to stimulate the economy.
Flaherty met with Liberal finance critic Scott Brison and John McCallum, chairman of the party's advisory committee on economic strategy, for about an hour in Toronto on Monday as part of pre-budget consultations happening throughout the week.
Both said they told Flaherty of the need to be straightforward about the state of Canada's economy if the minority Conservative government wants to put together an effective stimulus package.
Brison, who called the meeting "very constructive and businesslike," said he's hopeful the government will respond quickly.
"I would hope that prior to Christmas, we can have our concerns addressed and realistic, up-to-date and honest fiscal numbers for us to work on," said Brison.
"I'm confident that we will get the information that we need to proceed."
The Liberals on Monday released a letter they sent to Flaherty last week outlining their demands. Signed by Brison and McCallum, the letter asks for:
"Honest budgetary numbers" and an updated economic forecast.
A detailed plan on any Crown assets the government is considering selling.
A Finance Department briefing for the parliamentary budget officer.
A commitment to a two-year, multi-industry economic stimulus package.
The letter asks for a response from the government by Friday, Dec. 19.
Meeting worthwhile: Flaherty
Flaherty released a statement calling the meeting businesslike and worthwhile.
"We must strive to meet the needs of Canadians, which is why we are listening closely to make our economy and our country stronger at a time when it is clear that the entire world economy is deteriorating," he said in the statement.
Brison said the Liberals are looking for the government to present its figures in a way that doesn't include revenues from Crown assets yet to be sold, which he said is a generally accepted accounting practice for the government and private sector.
Flaherty has publicly mulled the possibility of selling some Crown assets as a way of avoiding a deficit, although he hasn't been specific about what might go up for auction.
The Opposition is also seeking an indication of the scale and scope of the stimulus package the government will present in its budget, Brison said, noting that the Liberals are pushing for investments in infrastructure, industries, housing and training.
"We want to see meaningful stimulus that not only helps Canadians get through this economic downturn but builds a more competitive and productive Canadian economy in the future as we move back into a period of recovery," Brison said.
Confidence vote for budget
While meetings with industry representatives and interest groups are usually a routine part of constructing any federal budget, there is an added urgency to this year's consultations, the CBC's James Fitz-Morris reported Monday.
The minority Conservative government will face a highly anticipated test of confidence when it tables its budget on Jan. 27 — a day after Parliament resumes following its prorogation earlier this month.
If the opposition parties vote against the budget, as they threatened to do with the November fiscal update, the country could find itself facing another general election or see the Conservatives replaced by a Liberal-NDP coalition government.
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe made an effort to keep a proposed Liberal-NDP coalition alive Monday, calling it the best solution to the economic crisis.
The BQ has agreed to support the coalition on any confidence measures if it forms a government.
Although Duceppe maintained the coalition is the desired solution, he declined to predict whether it will survive until the end of January, when the Conservative government has promised to release its budget.
"I don't make predictions, especially those considering the future," Duceppe said. "A lot of things could happen till the end of January."
Budget consultations are normally carried out by the House of Commons finance committee, which has been prevented from meeting since the government asked for Parliament to be suspended. Instead, the job has been left to Flaherty, who is also slated to meet with NDP finance critic Thomas Mulcair.
Mulcair said he plans to give Flaherty "our view of what's gone wrong in what the Conservatives have done for the last three years, and what we plan to do taking it forward."
Mulcair has also accused the finance minister of not being forthcoming with the economic numbers.
NDP Leader Jack Layton warned Monday that the government risks "facing the coalition again" if it's not willing to open its books.
He said the New Democrats have been clear with the Conservatives about their ideas for economic regeneration, including immediate help for key industries, tougher rules on banks to loosen credit and assistance for senior citizens.
In the fiscal update delivered at the end of last month, Flaherty projected balanced budgets and small surpluses through 2012-13, but warned that world economic uncertainty made it impossible to rule out future deficits.
Opposition parties have lambasted the Tories for failing to include a stimulus package for the slumping economy in the fiscal update, accusing the Conservatives of using tumultuous times to try to push through ideologically driven measures they said attacked women and public servants.
Aid, stimulus packages in works
Meanwhile, there are reports the Conservatives are preparing to offer aid to Canada's beleaguered mining and forestry sectors in the budget.
In an interview with CTV's Question Period on Sunday, Industry Minister Tony Clement said a number of other industries are "under distress" and "other industrial sectors, other extraction sectors are on the table for our budget coming out on Jan. 27."
Support for resource industries wasn't included in the fiscal update or Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent throne speech.
Harper told CBC News last week that the federal government may have to produce sector-by-sector stimulus measures to ease Canada's economic pains in the weeks ahead, but that the "big stuff" will have to wait for the budget.
Clement announced Friday that the federal government and Ontario had reached a deal to offer proportional funds to Canada's auto industry if a proposed $14-billion US aid package is approved in Washington. That aid would amount to approximately 20 per cent of the U.S. proposal, or about $3.3 billion.
The approach has been met with criticism from some opposition members who say that while Canada should work in some measure of harmony with the U.S. in providing financial assistance for the auto sector, stronger steps must be taken to protect Canadian jobs from being moved south.
"The Canadian government's approach is after these discussions [in the U.S.] are over, Mr. Harper and Mr. Clement hope that somehow we're going to dovetail in and add on at the end and somehow we'll get good consideration in terms of jobs in Canada and in terms of product mandates," Brison said.
"And I think that's very naive."