So Iggy in supporting the Conservatives is a pragmatic kind of guy whereas Dion was a wimp. How do you tell the difference? Is it because Iggy does better in the polls or that the Liberals want Iggy to wait until the party has a better war chest to fight an election.
Iggy will compromise on EI because he must to keep the coalition with the Conservatives alive and well. Of course not much will happen until the Fall. That will sure help those out of work now!
Ignatieff says he'll compromise to fix EI
By Mark Kennedy, Canwest News ServiceJune 20, 2009
OTTAWA - Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he's prepared to put some "water in my wine" to reach a compromise with the government this summer over reforms to Canada's employment insurance program.
In an interview Friday with Canwest News Service and Global National, Ignatieff also said he hopes Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's contention that an economic recovery will eventually pull the federal budget out of deficit is correct, because Ignatieff doesn't want to introduce tax hikes if the Liberals win the next election.
Ignatieff sat down for the interview in his Parliament Hill office immediately after a vote in the House of Commons on Friday that averted a summer election. He defended his decision to support the government's budgetary spending estimates in return for the creation of a joint working group of Conservatives and Liberals MPs that will study EI this summer.
``I'm a pragmatic kind of guy on this issue,'' said Ignatieff. He said a key turning point in this week's political drama occurred when Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged the flaw in how the EI system's existing eligibility rules are linked to the unemployment rate in 58 different regions.
That means workers across the country have to put in different numbers of hours, depending on where they live, before qualifying for EI benefits.
Harper has said he is willing to look at reducing the number of regions.
Premiers of Canada's western provinces and territories this week proposed basing the number of hours workers must put in before qualifying for EI on three different regional divisions: urban, rural and remote.
The Liberals have been pressing for a uniform eligibility standard and had initially been advocating a system in which anyone who works 360 hours would qualify for EI.
Now, Ignatieff has indicated that as long as the reform provides some fairness and equity, he's willing to negotiate with the governing Tories as they strive to reach a deal before Parliament returns in late September.
``We've got to get to a more sensible standard,'' he said, adding it should be set at a level that is ``fiscally responsible.''
``I'm going to try in good faith to get us to substantive employment insurance reform by the third week in September. I'm prepared to put some water in my wine, but not too much, because I think the country does need national standards here for the sake of fairness.''
In late September, the government will issue another economic update or report card. The Liberals will then be given the chance to put forward a non- confidence motion two days later, but Ignatieff steered clear of saying this will automatically lead to a defeat of the government and a fall election campaign.
``I've tried consistently since I've been leader of the Opposition to make this Parliament work, to play the hand the Canadian people dealt me. And I think this week we showed that if you're tough and firm you can get results. You can get the prime minister to move. I'm willing to move a bit. And then we work together through the summer,'' he said.
``I'm not going to predict what the autumn means, but I made it very clear to the prime minister - I make it very clear to Canadians - I'm holding him to account. This thing isn't over. We've got to get results for the Canadian people. If we can't get results for the Canadian people, then we're going to have to take other decisions. But I'm not there.''
Ignatieff carefully answered questions about whether he agrees with Flaherty's opinion that the federal budget will naturally return to surplus when the economy recovers and increased revenues begin to flow back into the coffers.
Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page disputes that prediction, saying that tax hikes or deep spending cuts are the only way to get the finances back to a surplus position. Earlier this spring, Ignatieff drew fire from the Conservatives after musing about whether it might some day be necessary to raise taxes to control the growing debt.
Asked Friday if he thinks a growing economy can produce a budgetary surplus, Ignatieff said it's hard to say because he doesn't have access to the Finance Department's records.
``Let me phrase it carefully. I believe it can. I sure hope it can because we are in a very tough situation. My instincts all along have been I don't want to increase the burden on Canadians.''
Ignatieff said a tax hike during a recession would place a burden on people, including small businesses ``struggling to get by.''
``So that is the last thing I want to do - to increase taxes, in other words, in a recession. I don't want to increase taxes after the recession. It's just after you've come through this hard time, you don't want someone hitting you over the head with a mallet. So I'm hoping recovery will allow our public finances to slowly get back to balance. But I'm in opposition. I'm not in government. So what I'm doing is saying, `Show me how you're going to do it.' ''
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service