Harper assistance stance is blackmail: Layton
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Sunday, January 13, 2008 3:28PM EST
NDP Leader Jack Layton says Stephen Harper is blackmailing voters and Parliament with his $1-billion promise for single-industry communities struck by the economic slowdown.
The cash payment, announced last week, will only get to the towns crippled by industry layoffs if opposition parties support the minority Conservative government's budget.
"That is totally unfair to the communities, to the individuals who have been laid off work," Layton told reporters on Sunday. "It's time Mr. Harper started putting himself in their shoes, and started thinking about what it's like to lose your job."
Harper's plan would provide provinces with cash to create new opportunities in communities hurt by traditional industries such as forestry, fishing and manufacturing.
But the money will only flow if the opposition parties approve the budget. They return to the House of Commons on Jan. 28, but it isn't yet known when the budget will be tabled. Voting down the budget would result in a declaration of "non confidence" in the government and trigger an election.
Opposition party leaders have all said they expect an election to be triggered early this year. Now, Layton says Harper is using the cash announcement to force Parliament to keep his government in power.
"Now, of course, we're seeing the members of Parliament being blackmailed by Mr. Harper, saying the only way there will be any assistance to the laid-off workers is if we vote 'confidence' in the Harper government and their approach to all things, whether it's the war, the environment, or all the other things that they're doing wrong," Layton said.
Layton said the trust fund was a "token measure," and that would not go nearly far enough or do anything to create jobs.
It's a sentiment the premiers of Canada's two largest provinces agree with.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty told CTV's Question Period that the $350 million that Ontario would receive from Harper's plan was appreciated, but wouldn't make much of a difference.
He said the federal government has to partner with the province and invest in the manufacturing industry.
"Here in Ontario we put together packages exceeding $3 billion," McGuinty said. "We are the largest manufacturing centre in Canada ... we've got to do more than just cut taxes."
Quebec Premier Jean Charest has said the $200 million they would receive would equal only about 10 per cent of the money the province had dedicated to helping the forestry and manufacturing industries.
The premiers met with Harper over dinner on Friday to discuss economic and other issues.