Only if Harper comes up with a budget full of poison pills would Ignatieff ever go through with the coalition idea. Even a few sharp pain producing pills will be swallowed with great moans and groans. Harper is in control and knows it but perhaps he will overplay his hand given his hubris and arrogance. While offering an olive branch he has planted a whole orchard of Conservative trees in the Senate as his Xmas gift to his flock. No doubt all of these machinations are good for the Canadian people and non-political as of course are Ignatieff's musings about non-partisan co-operation in passing a brave new budget. Maybe these are Canada's new beginnings!
Newly named Liberal Leader Ignatieff ready to form coalition
Harper, Ignatieff expected to speak by phone Wednesday night.
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 1:35 PM MT
Michael Ignatieff speaks with the media Wednesday during a news conference in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Interim Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Wednesday he's prepared to vote out the Conservatives and enter into a governing coalition with the NDP if next month's federal budget isn't in the country's best interest.
"I told caucus I will vote non-confidence in this government. I am prepared to enter into a coalition government if that is what the Governor General asks me to do," he said during an Ottawa news conference shortly after the Liberal party's national executive appointed him to replace Stéphane Dion.
"I also made it clear to the caucus, no party can have the confidence of the country if it decides to vote against a budget it hasn't even read."
The coalition, formed in protest over the Tories' fall economic update, was set to topple the Conservatives in a no-confidence vote scheduled for last Monday and form a new government, with Dion as prime minister and members of the NDP in cabinet, with the support of the Bloc Québécois on all confidence motions.
But the Tories avoided the vote after Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean agreed to grant Prime Minister Stephen Harper's request to suspend Parliament until late January, when the Tories will table a budget.
Ignatieff, who was largely silent in the days following the formation of the coalition, blamed Harper for unleashing a "parliamentary crisis" by failing to address the economic slowdown in the fall update.
He said the Liberals will make known in the coming weeks the measures they believe should be in the Jan. 27 budget, but added it is up to Harper to make the first move.
"I'm not entering into negotiations with Harper. He knows where he can find me," said Ignatieff. "If he needs any help … we might oblige."
Later in the afternoon, word emerged that Harper and Ignatieff were to speak by phone Wednesday evening.
Ignatieff said the prime minister must open up the country's books when he and Liberal finance critic Scott Brison attend a pre-arranged meeting with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty next week.
"We believe Mr. Harper and Mr. Flaherty did not tell … Canadians the truth about the state of the Canadian economy," said Ignatieff. "Unless we start getting the numbers, getting the truth, as a common baseline, we’ve got nothing to talk about."
Olive branch from PM?
Ignatieff also warned the prime minister against governing as if he has a majority in the House of Commons.
"You cannot run a minority Parliament with divisive, spiteful and unproductive policies we saw in that autumn statement. He's got to walk back down the hill," he said. "If he does, my party has never failed to exercise leadership in the national interest."
In an interview with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge on Tuesday, Harper urged the "big national parties" to work together, suggesting that he, too, was looking forward to a better relationship with the Liberals under Dion's replacement.
"I hope the next Liberal leader, the first thing he'll do will be … to sit down with me and have that kind of discussion."
While Harper appeared to extend an olive branch, the Conservative party on Wednesday issued a fundraising letter painting Ignatieff as a parachute leader with no elected legitimacy even within Liberal ranks.