Nothing much remains now of the coalition except a ghost to frighten the Conservatives that may prevent Harper from putting any really fatal poison pills in the budget. Ignatieff was never keen on a coalition and is content to bide his time until polls and finances are in better shape for the Liberals. Harper will no doubt put enough in his budget to buy off the Liberals. After all they are not worth much. Even Layton is softening his tone and Harper is also consulting with the NDP. Harper is willing to bend his ideology to the wind and produce a stimulus package at least large enough to prevent his budget being defeated.
Flaherty to consult with Liberals on budget plans
Last Updated: Monday, December 15, 2008 6:54 AM ET
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will meet with members of the Opposition Liberals Monday to field ideas on how to stimulate the economy in the run-up to next month's federal budget.
Flaherty is scheduled to meet with Liberal finance critic Scott Brison and John McCallum, who is chair of the leader's advisory committee on economic strategy, for about an hour Monday morning as part of pre-budget consultations throughout the week.
Brison has said he's prepared to have a constructive talk with Flaherty provided the finance minister tables some realistic numbers.
"We want to see, in the upcoming budget, what was lacking in the fiscal statement in terms of a real economic plan for the Canadian economy, with meaningful stimulus at a time of an economic downturn — and honest numbers for Canadians because Canadians deserve to know exactly what the fiscal situation is for their country," Brison told CBC News before the meeting.
Monday's meeting could be the start of several more to come, the finance critic 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 fiscal update, the country could find itself facing another general election or see the Conservatives replaced by a Liberal-NDP coalition government.
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 accused the finance minister of not being forthcoming with the economic numbers.
In a fiscal update delivered at the end of last month, Flaherty projected balanced budgets and small surpluses through 2012-13, but warned 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.
Industry Minister Tony 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.
In an interview with CTV's Question Period Sunday, 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.With files from the Canadian Press