Dion keeps door open to supporting Throne Speech
Published Wednesday, September 26, 2007 6:32PM EDT
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has set four demands for the upcoming speech from the throne, saying his party will vote against it unless the Conservatives meet his party's requirements.
Speaking after a Liberal caucus meeting on Wednesday, Dion said the Oct. 16 speech must include Bill C-30 on climate change, make strides on ending poverty and helping families, address international economic concerns and provide clarity on Afghanistan.
His comments seemed to suggest the Liberals would be willing to uphold the plan, staving off an election, if the Conservatives are willing to make some relatively minor concessions.
"My reading of this news conference is that there won't be an election. That was the impact of it to me," said CTV's Chief Political Correspondent Craig Oliver, following the news conference.
Oliver said the NDP and Bloc have both made demands of the Throne Speech that would be impossible for the government to meet, leaving it up to the Liberals to make a compromise in order to prop up the government and avoid an election.
"We just heard the Liberal leader throwing it back at the prime minister. And ... it seems to me, if the prime minister doesn't want an election he has sent him a message that will allow Harper not to have one. In other words those were not intolerable conditions laid out by Mr. Dion," Oliver told CTV Newsnet.
A fall election would come at less than optimal timing for Dion's party. The Liberals recently came up empty-handed in three byelections in Quebec -- one in a key Liberal stronghold in Montreal -- and have been slipping in the polls in the province.
The byelection losses also triggered questions about Dion's abilities.
At the news conference Dion said Bill C-30 must remain on the table. He suggested the Liberals are willing to work with the Conservatives on some amendments to the plan, but said the plan put forward by Environment Minister John Baird is unacceptable.
The bill, originally drafted by the government, was rewritten by three opposition parties in an attempt to force the government to toughen requirements on industrial polluters.
The government must also address social inequity in the document.
"We need to fight against poverty and to fight for families. This government has done nothing and it's unacceptable," Dion said.
On economic issues, Dion said Canada is doing well largely because of the hard work of the previous Liberal government. But he said the Throne Speech must address issues such as the Canadian dollar's new status as virtually equal to the U.S. greenback, and making Canada competitive with rising economic powers China and India.
On Afghanistan, Dion said the Throne Speech must make it clear Canada intends to end its combat role in Afghanistan in 2009.
He also warned repeatedly of Harper's "hidden agenda" and said Canada under a Conservative majority government would be akin to the U.S. under George Bush or the U.K. under Margaret Thatcher.
Bloc Quebecois Gilles Duceppe also held a news conference on Wednesday following his own caucus meeting. He wouldn't say whether the Bloc is seeking an election, but said his party will look out for Quebec's best interests and judge the Throne Speech according to the standard.
However, he said his party is in "electoral mode," preparing for the possibility that the Throne Speech will not be adopted by Parliament.
"For us we cannot take a chance. If this Throne Speech is rejected by the house it means an election, so we need to be ready and we will be ready for an election."