Harper meets with Ignatieff on budget

Fri Dec 12, 2008 3:13pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday held his first meeting with the main opposition party's new leader, who is threatening to help bring down the minority Conservative government unless it delivers a stimulus-rich budget next month.

Michael Ignatieff on Wednesday took over as head of the Liberals, the official opposition, and said he was prepared if necessary to vote with other parties to defeat Harper over the budget, due on January 27.

"It was a businesslike meeting. They talked about the economy and the upcoming budget. Mr. Ignatieff made it clear ... that the ball is in Harper's camp. It's up to him to put up a credible economic plan," said a Liberal spokesman. Harper's chief spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The opposition parties last week signed a coalition deal to bring down the government as soon as they could but signs are emerging that tensions might be easing.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said earlier that he would hold talks on the budget with senior Liberals on Monday.

The Liberals indicated doubts about the usefulness of such a meeting, saying they wanted Flaherty to produce accurate details about the economy. He presented a fiscal update last month that many economists dismissed as unrealistic.

"I am prepared to listen to the views of the coalition," Flaherty said during a televised news conference in Saint John, New Brunswick.

The opposition parties says the budget should contain major stimulus measures, an approach the government says it backs, and boost spending on infrastructure projects.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 10, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>