Election sabre-rattling grows

OTTAWA — The country was left teetering on the brink of election Thursday after all three opposition parties denounced the minority Conservative government’s latest progress report on its economic recovery plan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks about the Canadian government's progress in implementing Economic Action Plan Initiatives

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks about the Canadian government's progress in implementing Economic Action Plan Initiatives

OTTAWA — The country was left teetering on the brink of election Thursday after all three opposition parties denounced the minority Conservative government’s latest progress report on its economic recovery plan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said 80 per cent of the plan is already being implemented as the economy shows signs of pulling out of its tailspin. And he appealed to opposition parties not to upset the apple cart.

“The only thing that can get us off course now is needless political instability,” he told a heavily staged town hall meeting in Cambridge, Ont.

But all opposition parties dismissed Harper’s 80 per cent implementation rate as a joke, particularly when it comes to infrastructure funds that are supposed to provide the most immediate economic stimulus.

And two of the three — the NDP and Bloc Quebecois — vowed to vote against the government next Friday, when the latest round of spending estimates in support of the economic recovery plan are put to a confidence vote.

That left the Harper government’s fate squarely in Michael Ignatieff’s hands.

While the Liberal leader was equally critical of the progress report, he said he’ll take time to read it thoroughly before deciding whether it’s bad enough to warrant plunging the country into a summer election only eight months after Canadians last trooped to the polls.

“I think it’s time to take off the rose-coloured glasses and look closely at the numbers,” Ignatieff said in Montreal.

Ignatieff said Liberals are ready for an election but maintained that’s not the real issue.

“The question is what is in the national interest, what do Canadians want here?

“Let’s remember where we are . . . . We’re in the middle of the most serious recession in a generation, right? What’s the right way forward for our country? That’s the question I’ll be asking myself tonight.”

Liberal insiders said Ignatieff is genuinely torn over what to do and put the chances of him deciding to pull the plug on the government at about 50-50. He is expected to announce his decision Friday or Monday.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty accused the opposition parties of “playing chicken” with each other and predicted there’s a 50 per cent chance they’ll accidentally force a summer election.

If an election is called, Harper made it plain he’ll blame the Liberals for stalling the progress that’s been made on rolling out $22.7 billion in economic stimulus spending, announced in the Jan. 27 budget.

“Fully 80 per cent of our plan’s funding has been committed and is being implemented across this country,” Harper said.

“Some 3,000 individual projects across the country are now getting underway — no small feat only 72 days into a new fiscal year.”

However, Liberal finance critic John McCallum accused the government of using “weasel words” to describe money that’s been “committed” but not necessarily spent.

The Liberals meanwhile produced an Internet slide show showing a dozen examples of infrastructure projects that have yet to break ground even though they were announced as much as two years ago.

Ignatieff said the progress report — the second quarterly report demanded by the Liberals as the price for their support of the budget — can’t be taken at face value. It includes projects that have been repeatedly reannounced without ever actually getting started, he said.

And he pointed out that the country’s mayors have complained that they have yet to see any money.

The touted 80 per cent overall implementation rate includes 100 per cent implementation of things like the home renovation tax credit, although the government has no idea yet how many homeowners may actually take advantage of it.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowboy Kicks, originally scheduled for May 5, will now take place Sept. 18. (Contributed photo)
Westerner Park’s Cowboy Kicks fundraiser moved to Sept. 18

A major fundraiser for Westerner Park and the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Josh Tarzwell tries to tip a point shot past Lethbridge Hurricanes goalie Car Tetachuk in WHL action Friday night at the Centrium. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels struggles continue, drop seventh straight to Hurricanes

Hurricanes score three power-play goals in 6-3 win

Downtown Red Deer patio restaurants have been busy this summer. Contributed photo
City of Red Deer expediting patio application process for restaurants

The City of Red Deer is allowing businesses to install patios prior… Continue reading

RDC Queens forward Camryn Wallan was named the 2020-21 RDC Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Wallan, Podgorenko named 2020-21 RDC Outstanding Athletes of the Year

Even with the cancellation of the 2020-21 Alberta Colleges Athletic Association, RDC… Continue reading

A new Angus Reid poll says that close to two-thirds of Albertans think premier Jason Kenney is doing a bad job handling the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
75% of Albertans disapprove of Kenney’s pandemic leadership: poll

Nearly 75 per cent of Albertans believe Premier Jason Kenney is doing… Continue reading

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is among those who have signed an open letter criticizing the government’s return to stricter health measures. (Advocate file photo).
Updated: Kenney tells UCP caucus COVID-19 dissent OK, breaking health rules means expulsion

15 MLAs released letter on Wednesday critical of new health restrictions

Owner of 4 Point Taekwondo Kevin Mejia holds a board as organizer and martial artist Kevin Olsen breaks it in Edmonton on Friday, April 9, 2021. One hundred martial artists from around the world, will be breaking a board for an event called "Break for a Breakthrough." The idea is for martial artists to unite and re-engage with the arts because they may have drifted away or lost enthusiasm as a result of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Break for a Breakthrough: Canadian hosts international martial arts demonstration

EDMONTON — Whether he’s breaking a wooden board, a clay tile, cement… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Ediburgh, left, look on as Manitoba Beaver peaks out of his box at a July 14, 1970 ceremony in which Hudson's Bay Company observed an old tradition. The death of Prince Philip has reminded a small French village in Manitoban about how a royal visit half a century ago made the community the centre of frog racing in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Prince Philip’s frog-jumping legacy in a Manitoba French community

WINNIPEG — The death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has reminded… Continue reading

The Yukon provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. Yukon residents will head to the polls on Monday for Canada's fourth election held during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon residents set to vote in fourth election held in Canada during pandemic

WHITEHORSE — Yukon residents will head to the polls on Monday for… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole, former PM Harper speak on ‘build back right’ for pandemic recovery

OTTAWA — Top Tory leaders of the past and present will speak… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals set to debate universal basic income, pharmacare, OAS hike

OTTAWA — Grassroots Liberals have taken up Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call… Continue reading

Students enter the Pierre Laporte Secondary School as secondary school students return to class full time during the COVID-19 pandemic in Montreal, Monday, March 29, 2021. Pandemic-fuelled frustration has some teens expressing anger in unhealthy ways after a year of missed social connections that would typically help them mature and regulate their emotions, says a psychiatrist calling for more education on coping skills as part of the school curriculum. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Teach students coping skills to deal with anger, including during pandemic: doctor

Pandemic-fuelled frustration has some teens expressing anger in unhealthy ways after a… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $25 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $25 million jackpot… Continue reading

jobs - T - 3-6-2020
Finding a job: 3 job search truisms you need to accept

A job search has many moving parts; your mindset is the most… Continue reading

Most Read