The Conservatives seem to be testing the Liberals at every turn. If they keep engaging in this type of gamesmanship they may find themselves facing a repeat of last year when they had to ask the governor general to prorogue parliament to avoid facing an election.
No doubt with the polls as they are the Liberals will not want a fall election but neither will the Conservatives. However, if the Conservatives continue to provoke the Liberals they may be forced into a situation where they will bring down the Conservatives rather than lose any credibility they may have left.
Fight over EI reform sparks election talk
Tories haven't brought enough to the table, Liberals say, hinting the issue could bring no-confidence vote in the fall
From Friday's Globe and Mail
Last updated on Friday, Aug. 07, 2009 03:28AM EDT
The fight over employment insurance reform is emerging as a possible trigger for a fall election, as the Liberals accused the Tories yesterday of not putting forward a single idea at a meeting of the special bipartisan group formed to study the issue.
These are high-stakes meetings for both the Harper Conservatives and the Ignatieff Liberals. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has made EI reform a centrepiece of his leadership and secured the creation of the special study group from Prime Minister Stephen Harper in exchange for not defeating the government in the spring. Mr. Ignatieff has hinted broadly in recent days that he would be willing to bring in a motion of no-confidence in the fall, saying it's getting "tougher and tougher" to work with the Harper government.
Although he later rebuffed this notion, saying he wants to make Parliament work, the fracas over EI reform could offer the Liberals the scenario they would need to pull the plug on the minority government at the end of September.
The bipartisan committee is set to report to the party leaders at the end of September, the same week the government tables its accountability report on the stimulus spending in Parliament. That is to be followed three days later by an opposition day in which the Liberals, if they don't like what they see, could call for a vote of no-confidence. It would take all three opposition parties voting together to defeat the minority government.
Two more meetings of the working group are scheduled for this month; Mr. Savage said, however, there could be more if progress is being made.
"We want to see a little bit more willingness from the other side to be serious about the negotiations," he said.
But the Liberals say the Tories were hardly serious yesterday, presenting a cost analysis of the Liberal plan that the Liberals say was misleading.
The Liberals are asking for regional fairness in a reformed employment insurance scheme, one that would create a uniform national standard and lower the number of hours required to qualify. They would like to see Canadians qualify after 360 hours of work - a temporary plan they say would be help Canadians through the recession, and cost federal coffers an additional $1.5-billion a year.
The government's analysis, however, showed the Liberal plan would add about $4-billion a year to the plan - almost three times the Liberal estimate.
......Although he described the meeting as "tense" and "frustrating," Mr. Savage believes these meetings could be a "model for getting things done in the future, if it works out."
"But in order for that to happen, there has to be good faith on both sides," he said, adding that the document the Tories released had a note on it that said "Employment Insurance Working Group not for distribution."
"Then, they ran out and distributed it. I think that speaks for itself," he said. "I thought there were points in the meeting today where I thought we could make some progress, but when they came running out of the meeting and released their distorted information, I'll tell you very honestly, it's frustrating and it causes doubt."
The panel began its work almost seven weeks after the group was first struck. The delay prompted the Liberal Leader last week to question how seriously the Harper government is taking EI reform.
Ms. Finley, meanwhile, would not confirm that a document was distributed nor would she say if her side put anything on the table.