Ignatieff blasts government over deficit data

Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:54pm EST
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By Frank Pingue

TORONTO (Reuters) - The leader of Canada's main opposition party blasted government officials on Friday for leaking the size of upcoming deficits just days ahead of a much awaited budget that could decide the fate of the minority Conservative government.

"The release of this budget information was irresponsible and costly to the economy," Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff said in a speech in Toronto.

Ignatieff, whose support the government needs to pass the budget and stay in power, accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of playing political games at a time of crisis and said next Tuesday's budget was the prime minister's last chance to show he had a real plan to tackle the recession.

"We'll see whether Mr. Harper has started to listen, we'll see whether he's finally got serious. And if he hasn't learned to listen, he is not going to lead for long," he said in a speech in Toronto.

Government officials said on Thursday that federal deficits over the next two fiscal years would total $64 billion ($51.6 billion).

Ignatieff, who signaled this past week he is unlikely to defeat the budget and force another election, said on Friday he would wait until the morning after the budget is presented before deciding whether to support the package.

"I'm going to have a special caucus, given the enormous historical political importance of this budget, and then consult with my colleagues ... and then in an expeditious manner the next morning, you'll be in no doubt where the Liberal Party of Canada stands," he told reporters.

His decision to wait a day breaks with the usual practice of opposition leaders to give a thumbs up or thumbs down immediately after package is presented in the House of Commons.   Continued...