UPDATE -A non-confidence motion passed in Canadian Parliament today (March 25).
A 156-145 vote in the House of Commons defeated the minority government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will go to Governor-General David Johnston Saturday morning (March 26) to seek the formal dissolution of parliament and set a date for the election. The election date is expected to be set in early May.
Saanich Gulf Islands MP Gary Lunn said he is in a state of shock and disbelief after opposition parties spoke out against the Conservative budget moments after it was released.
“There are so many things in (the budget) that they were asking for: we didn’t raise taxes; we’re paying down the deficit. There’s a number of new items in here: the 15 per cent non-refundable children’s tax credit; the tax credit for firefighters … I’m shocked, shocked that these guys came out moments after the budget came out and said we’re not going to support it in its current form,” said Lunn.
The federal budget increases the Guaranteed Income Supplement rates by $600 a year for single, low-income seniors and $840 for qualifying couples. It adds a $300 tax credit for family caregivers and other credits for children’s art programs, volunteer firefighters and others, and extends a work-sharing program for older workers.
With the federal Liberals and Bloc Quebecois refusing to support the minority Conservative government, federal NDP leader Jack Layton would need to support the budget to keep Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s mandate alive.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Layton said the NDP won’t support the budget “in its current form.”
“If we take them at what they’re saying we’ll be defeated on Friday and we’ll be spending a half a billion dollars on an unnecessary election,” said Lunn.
Lunn said a number of cabinet members were briefed on the content of the budget, “not on specifics, but that it would be reasonable, responsible, there would be nothing in there that anybody could not support, nothing that could provoke an election, nothing that would be antagonistic. And quite the contrary, we consulted Canadians across the country, I was part of that consultation in January. The prime minister and minister of finance listened to all the opposition leaders and delivered a number of their requests that are in this budget.”
Lunn commented on new program for military personnel to go back into the work force and tax credits for firefighters. “Firefighters, in many communities — including greater Victoria and across Canada — volunteer fire fighters are the backbone of these communities, the heart and soul of these communities. They’re more than firefighters and they come up with this tax credit for volunteer firefighters and for people to stand up and vote against them, I’m stunned.”
“There’s nothing in this budget, there’s nothing in here that would antagonize them, there’s nothing in here that would say well, ‘we like those, but we just cannot support that’. Every single item in this budget is very responsible and it’s reasonable and to the point and every single political party should be able to support this budget,” said Lunn.
“When they say it’s not enough, my response is we’re reducing the deficit down below $30 billion faster than we anticipated. We’re focused on jobs and the economy, we’re not going to raise taxes — that’s very, very important to continue on the economic recovery, so I think we’ve struck the right tone and the right mix.”
Lunn called the budget “fantastic” and lauded the country’s economic growth.
“We’re in an enviable position globally, we’ve got the best economic recovery in the G7, we’ve got the greatest forecast. Both the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ) and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) are saying Canada will continue with the strongest growth, but we’re not out of the woods yet.
“It’s not about us, it’s about maintaining this economic recovery, looking after our economic interests, insuring Canadians have jobs, that’s first and foremost.”
Lunn reiterated comments from federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty that the government would not negotiate on the budget.
“I can tell you that this with 100 per cent certainty. This is the budget we’re voting on, there will be no changes. The prime minister’s not going to do what Paul Martin did, he’s not going to go to a hotel in Toronto and negotiate amendments to a budget to buy someone’s support.”
– with files from Tom Fletcher