Harper rejects possibility of a 'backroom deal'
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says no backroom deals are in the works with the NDP and he has no plans to seek their support to keep his government alive.
Harper was speaking in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. two days after Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff vowed to pull his support from the Conservatives, leaving it to the Bloc and NDP to keep the government alive.
Harper seemed to leave little room for partnering with either party, increasing the chances of a fall election.
"We will not be making any backroom deals," Harper said. "If other parties, as I've said before, have useful ideas, good, effective, affordable ideas on the economy, let us see what they are and we'll take a look at them."
Harper suggested that making a deal would be similar to the coalition that was struck last year between the Bloc, NDP and Liberals. He said Canadians weren't in favour of that union and "we're not going to be getting into that kind of deal."
Harper was in Niagara-On-The-Lake to announce funding for upgrades to a bridge to the U.S., and avoided the subject of an election altogether, until reporters raised the subject.
He suggested that while the opposition parties are engaged in political games, the Conservatives are focused on fixing the economy.
"As a government and as a Parliament we're supposed to be focused on a recovery. We see the signs of a recovery, that's what we should be focusing on -- getting the recovery moving forward," Harper said.
"It bothers me when I see parties are worried that there is a recovery -- that they want to force an election before we get too deep into a recovery, and that is not responsible."
No offers from NDP
Meanwhile on Thursday, NDP Leader Jack Layton finally broke the silence he has maintained since Ignatieff signalled the Liberals were pulling their support for the government.
But instead of making demands, Layton said whether the government will fall will rest solely on Harper's shoulders.
"It would be best if Parliament would actually work for people," he told CTV News Channel Thursday. "Mr. Harper (has) a decision to make here, he could either . . . reach out to other parties . . . or he is essentially saying, 'we got to have an election.'"
Layton laid out the NDP priorities for the fall session as protection for seniors, and for the unemployed, particularly young people.
"So far we've been disappointed at that sense there's an unwillingness to reach out and work with opposition parties. If that changes that opens the possibility we might not have an election," Layton said earlier to reporters in Halifax.
Many had speculated that Layton would try to strike a deal with the Conservatives to keep the government alive, in exchange for the government's support on key NDP issues.
But Harper seems to have firmly shut the door on that possibility, leaving only a slim chance that a deal can be reached with the Bloc Quebecois to prevent an election.
Liberal MP Bob Rae said his party will be in full opposition mode once the House returns in September, a change of pace from previous recent sessions.
"I expect this to be a tough fall . . . this business is a lot more like hockey than it is like ballet," Rae told reporters. "It's a contact sport."
He said his party was willing to take down the government either on a ways and means motion in mid-September or by a non-confidence vote in early October.
L. Ian MacDonald, political analyst and editor-in-chief of Policy Options, said the party leaders all appeared to be digging in for battle.
He told CTV News Channel that Ignatieff has backed himself into a corner by warning Harper that his time is up.
"Ignatieff's got himself out on a ledge without a net, and he's gonna jump, come what may because he's given us these sound bytes that he can't take back."