Tensions ease ahead of budget votes

Mon Jan 19, 2009 4:40pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's minority Conservative government and the main opposition Liberal Party both sounded conciliatory on Monday ahead of key confidence votes on next week's federal budget.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he saw common ground with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff on the need for temporary deficits as part of an economic stimulus package, while Ignatieff reiterated his refusal to oppose a budget he had not seen.

"I will read the budget before judging it," Ignatieff said after a two-day meeting of the Liberal parliamentary caucus. He said he would judge the document as a whole and there was not any single item that would prompt a vote against it.

The January 27 budget must receive the support of at least one of the three opposition parties or the government will fall, triggering either another election or possibly an opposition coalition led by Ignatieff.

Ignatieff has said the budget must look after those hit hardest by the economic downturn.

Harper was asked at a news conference in Nova Scotia about reports Ignatieff opposed the idea of a middle class tax cut.

"Mr. Ignatieff indicated a couple of weeks back that he wanted to see middle class relief and has indicated more recently that he may not," Harper said.

"I think the link between these two statements is his concern about avoiding a long-run permanent deficit. That is obviously a concern that the government of Canada shares."   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers a question during a media briefing at the Marriott Harbourfront hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, January 19, 2009. REUTERS/Paul Darrow</p>