Parliament resumes as election talk heats up

OTTAWA — The Harper government is keeping to its nose-to-the-grindstone line, insisting it will be the opposition’s fault if there’s a spring election.

OTTAWA — The Harper government is keeping to its nose-to-the-grindstone line, insisting it will be the opposition’s fault if there’s a spring election.

“We’re not going to provoke an election, folks,” spokesman Dimitri Soudas said Monday.

“There’s no intention on the part of the government to make of something a confidence vote that hasn’t traditionally been one. The objective here is to make Parliament work.”

MPs have returned to Parliament Hill after an extended Christmas break — a recess during which election speculation has heated up.

Soudas said the government wants to focus on the second-phase of its economic action plan, with new measures to be introduced in the March budget to stimulate job creation and protect retirement savings.

The government would also like to see a number of pieces of anti-crime legislation passed this spring, including a controversial bill meant to crack down on human smuggling.

Soudas said Prime Minister Stephen Harper is willing to speak to opposition leaders to get their input on the budget, with certain conditions.

“The prime minister has been clear that we are interested in hearing the ideas of the opposition leaders, ideas that are reasonable, ideas that are job-creating ideas, ideas that are of net benefit to the economy, not ideas that are going to raise taxes like the proposal Mr. Ignatieff is making …” he said.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has said his party won’t support the budget unless it rolls back corporate tax cuts. He says the cuts are ill-timed as Canada struggles with a huge deficit.

The Bloc is demanding $5 billion in various concessions to Quebec, including increased transfer payments and compensation for the province’s harmonized sales tax.

The NDP has taken a more conciliatory position, saying it’s not making any demands but wants to see action on several fronts, including a tax break on home heating and more money for poor seniors.