Harper to Liberals: don't trigger election now
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, May 1, 2009 4:58PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 10:48PM EDT
EDGELEY, Alta - Stephen Harper has a message for Liberals celebrating the coronation of their new leader: now is not the time for an election.
The prime minister was asked Friday whether he had any words for Liberals enjoying lofty poll numbers and preparing to adopt a more aggressive posture in Parliament.
He said now's the time for parties to be working together.
The Liberals appear set to withdraw from their recent habit of supporting the minority Conservative government in confidence votes.
The three other parties -- now with lower poll numbers -- have advanced a variety of ideas for co-operating among themselves.
"We just had an election," Harper said in Edgeley, Sask.
"What we're looking for from Ignatieff and the other parties is, obviously, an opportunity to work together to advance the interest of the country."
"We do think that, rather than this kind of partisanship, people should be seeking ways to work together to advance our shared interests at this time of recession."
The message is unlikely to sway many minds at the Liberal convention in Vancouver.
The message of co-operation with opposition parties is identical to the one Harper delivered after winning the last election -- just before he tried strangling them financially in his fall fiscal update.
That update led to an opposition attempt to form a coalition, which prompted Liberals to dump Stephane Dion and replace him without a leadership race.
Conservative insiders say their game plan is to avoid an election during this year's recession by getting support from the Bloc and NDP on confidence votes, then delaying the federal budget until March while Canada hosts the Winter Olympics.
They hope the recession will be over by then so that they might campaign amid an improving economy -- instead of the current daily headlines about job cuts and falling financial indicators.
Harper responded to that by saying he would not make "a pact or arrangement" with the Bloc -- a scenario no one has raised.
"I'm reading some stories that we're cooking up a deal with the NDP or Bloc, or the NDP or Bloc are cooking up a deal with us," he said.
"I'm not sure who's saying what over here. ... As I say, it's important for parties to indicate what they stand for and to try and find common ground."
A far more likely scenario is one that transpired this week in Parliament, where the Conservatives surprised observers by voting for a non-binding Bloc motion that demanded a tax-harmonization deal for Quebec. They had previously expressed opposition to the Bloc's demand.