Canada won't alter industry aid despite attacks
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's minority Conservative government on Friday resisted pressure to alter a C$1 billion plan to aid hard-hit one-industry communities despite fierce criticism the package is little more than political blackmail.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a trust fund on Thursday to help workers and said it would be part of the next budget, which is expected in early March. If the budget is not approved by Parliament, in which the Conservatives hold a minority of seats, the aid money will not be spent.
Critics said Harper should make the aid available now and not use it as a tool in the next election campaign. If the budget is defeated, the government will fall immediately and an election will be called.
Jean Charest, premier of the province of Quebec, said he failed to persuade Harper to change his mind on Friday.
"He said again that he'd put it in the budget. I reiterated that it should be immediate," he told reporters after Harper hosted a dinner for the premiers of Canada's 10 provinces.
Earlier, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said there was nothing unusual about making the aid part of a budget.
"We are a democracy ... this is not a dictatorship. We must have parliamentary approval to spend money," he told reporters. "It's a money item and we do money items in budget bills."
The trust fund is designed to help unemployed workers and communities -- many of them in rural areas. Continued...