Liberals say ready to vote against budget

Sun Jan 18, 2009 5:04pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Liberals will vote against the minority Conservative government's budget if they consider it incapable of tackling the financial crisis, party leader Michael Ignatieff said on Sunday.

The government is set to unveil a budget on January 27 and needs the support of at least one of the three opposition parties, which last month struck a deal to bring down Prime Minister Stephen Harper over his handling of the crisis.

If the Liberals oppose the budget it would most likely mean the downfall of the government, since the other two opposition parties seem determined to vote against the document.

Harper, who only escaped defeat in December by managing to have Parliament suspended temporarily, says the budget will contain many billions of dollars in stimulus measures.

Although Canada has run budget surpluses for more than a decade, officials concede it will now plunge into the red. One media report cited officials as saying the budget deficit next fiscal year could reach C$40 billion ($32 billion).

"This deficit is squarely Mr Harper's responsibility. He spent us down to the red line in the good times and so we face the hard times ... with the cupboard bare," said Ignatieff, who demanded that the budget protect the vulnerable, help people stay in work while creating jobs.

"If the budget does not respond to the circumstances, if the budget is not equal to the crisis that we all face, we have to vote against," he told Liberal legislators, accusing Harper of not telling the truth about the nation's finances.

Harper aides criticized the tone of the comments, saying Canadians expected legislators to work together.   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff pauses while speaking during a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa January 18, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>