Harper, Ignatieff reach deal to avert summer election

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff ended their political brinkmanship Wednesday with a deal to avoid an election — at least until the fall.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff have finalized the details of an agreement that will preserve the Conservatives' minority government - for now.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff ended their political brinkmanship Wednesday with a deal to avoid an election — at least until the fall.

The centrepiece of the agreement is a six-member working group that will examine possible changes to Employment Insurance.

Those changes include a Conservative proposal to extend EI coverage to the self-employed, and a Liberal push to make the eligibility threshold the same across the country.

The group will have to report back to Parliament by Sept. 28.

The minority Conservative government will also be compelled to produce another economic report card to the House of Commons that week.

And Harper agreed to give the Liberals an opposition day motion within eight days of the start of the fall session of Parliament — a key opportunity to trigger an election.

In exchange, Ignatieff will not vote against the government Friday when the supplementary budget estimates come up in the Commons. The NDP and Bloc Quebecois have said they will vote against the government.

Both men hailed the agreement as a good day for parliamentary co-operation.

“The good news we have today for people is that the breakthrough we actually have is a willingness of the government and the Official Opposition to work together on an important public policy matter,” Harper said.

“I think it’s always preferable that parties work together in these difficult times and that’s what Canadians want.”

Ignatieff said he simply did his job by holding the government to account.

“We have found a way to make progress for Canadians on EI and we’ve found a way to make this government accountable and I feel that this is a good day for our country. But more importantly, it’s a good day also for this system of Parliament.”

Ignatieff noted that he will re-evaluate the government after the EI panel recommendations and the economic progress report and decide whether to keep supporting the government.

Harper said his opposition to a Liberal proposal for a 360-hour EI eligibility standard across the country has not changed. But he said there is a possibility of reaching compromise.

He agreed that the current system of 58 regional eligibility areas doesn’t seem to make sense.

Under the EI deal, each side will be able to select three people for the panel.

Ignatieff said he will appoint MPs Michael Savage and Marlene Jennings, along with Kevin Chan, his head of policy. Chan was a former senior bureaucrat with the Privy Council under the Harper government.

In an internal memo circulated within Tory ranks, the Prime Minister’s Office appeared to be claiming victory over Ignatieff.

“The Liberals have reversed themselves on EI reform (their 360-hour demand has been abandoned) and withdrawn the threat to force an unnecessary summer election,” the memo said.

“Instead, the Liberals will vote for the next round of stimulus in our Economic Action Plan.”

The agreement was reached after two face-to-face meetings Tuesday and a phone chat Wednesday morning.

The unusual discussions between Ignatieff and Harper kicked off after Ignatieff demanded answers to a series of key economic questions.

The main question was what Harper intended to do to improve EI.

Ignatieff also demanded to know how much stimulus money has been spent, and what the government plans to do about the ballooning deficit and the medical isotope crisis.

One Liberal cautioned that although the EI working group will make its recommendations, the party doesn’t necessarily have to agree with either the findings or the action Harper takes following the report.

All parties will spend the summer months gathering support and money before an election that many insiders believe will happen this fall.

Just Posted

PHOTO: Rainbow Block Party at Red Deer’s West Park

The Trans and Non-Binary Aid Society hosted a Rainbow Block Party at… Continue reading

Blood donations needed in Central Alberta: Canadian Blood Services

357 donors are needed before Aug. 26 at the Red Deer clinic

WATCH: Annual Family Picnic at Central Spray and Play

Blue Grass Sod Farms Ltd. held the Annual Family Picnic at the… Continue reading

Photos: Smoky conditions in Red Deer

Red Deer and area is experiencing high risk air quality.See related: Red… Continue reading

Committee to decide how millions in Humboldt Broncos donations are split

SASKATOON — Lawyers for the families of some of those who died… Continue reading

Boy, 11, dies after being struck by payloader on southern Alberta ranch

BOW ISLAND, Alta. — A boy has died after an accident on… Continue reading

Liberals look at creating federal holiday to mark legacy of residential schools

OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government wants to establish a holiday to… Continue reading

Thousands of police officers expected at regimental funeral in Fredericton

FREDERICTON — Thousands of police officers and first responders from across the… Continue reading

B.C. declares state of emergency over wildfires

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government has declared a provincial state of… Continue reading

As service refusals make headlines, experts say businesses usually in the wrong

Two Canadian businesses that recently made headlines for refusing customers have learned… Continue reading

Irregular asylum claims increased in July after two months of decline

OTTAWA — The number of irregular border crossers in Canada went up… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month