OTTAWA, June 15 (Reuters) - Canada’s largest opposition party said on Monday it would not back the government in a parliamentary vote on Friday, putting the minority Conservative government in danger of falling, unless it received assurances from Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he would address four major concerns.
Here are the four demands made by Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff:
Harper said last Thursday he would bring in unspecified improvements to the jobless benefits system in the autumn but Ignatieff demanded that Harper present these proposals right away. The Liberals want to lower the eligibility requirements for employment insurance on a temporary basis, which Ignatieff said would make the system fairer and would provide the best immediate stimulus to the economy. Ignatieff said the Liberal Party needs to see Harper’s plans before allowing the government to stay in power, and is willing to give the government extra time to get its proposal ready.
Ignatieff wants Harper to provide details on how much of the government’s C$46.2 billion ($40.5 billion), two-year stimulus package has flowed into infrastructure and other projects so far. Specifically, he demanded to know how much of the money was actually spent in the first 120 days since the plan was announced in late January and how much the government expects to be spent in the next 120 days.
The government said last Thursday that 80 percent of the stimulus measures were either flowing or had commitments in place for the funds to flow.
Ignatieff challenged Harper to provide a credible plan for getting the federal finances back under control after the government said last week the expected 2009-10 deficit would be C$50.2 billion. Ignatieff wants the government to provide deficit projections for the next five years and clarity on whether the books would be balanced again in 2013-14, as originally promised.
Ignatieff demanded the government explain how it plans to supply medical isotopes to Canada amid the prolonged shutdown of the Chalk River reactor in Ontario, which makes a third of the world’s isotope supply.
Isotopes are valuable in medical imaging for diagnosing cancer, heart disease and other medical conditions, but Canada’s reactor is aging and efforts to engineer a replacement have failed. Ignatieff said other isotope-producing reactors around the world did not constitute a secure alternative source of supply.
$1=$1.14 Canadian Reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Peter Galloway