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Layton draws strong line on budget, opening door to election

NDP Leader Jack Layton asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Tuesday Feb. 15, 2011.

Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton says Canadians still might be able to convince Prime Minister Stephen Harper to change his plans for the March budget.

But in an interview with the CTV program Question Period, Mr. Layton gave the impression he hadn't had much success in getting the prime minister to bend on corporate tax cuts or other issues during their 45-minute meeting on Friday.

He wouldn't say how the NDP will vote on the budget, which could bring down the government and force a spring election.

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"Well [Mr. Harper's]got a choice to make," Mr. Layton said. "He can either come up with a good budget that responds to some of the real needs that Canadians are facing today, which we outlined, or he can decide not to do that, in which case, he'll be deciding to move us into an election."

The NDP leader took a shopping list into the Friday meeting that included:

- Removing the federal sales tax from home heating bills and restoring the EcoEnergy Retrofit program;

- Increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors;

- Expanding the Canada Pension Plan;

- Hiring more family doctors.

Scrapping corporate tax cuts was not on the list released to reporters last week, although Mr. Layton said he and the prime minister discussed it for 15 minutes.

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Removing the home heating tax would cost $900-million, Mr. Layton said. When co-host Craig Oliver said that senior Conservatives had told him the items the NDP wanted to see in the budget were too expensive, Mr. Layton said: "You can't trust the prime minister and his people on this sort of thing."

He wouldn't close the door on supporting the budget, because he said he doesn't want to second guess what the prime minister will do.

"The prime minister has the opportunity to do the right thing. There is four weeks left or so before the budget is tabled. We hope that Canadians will speak up and let the prime minister and Conservatives know that it is time they had help from the government. "

Mr. Layton said that while the NDP would look at the budget as a whole, "our position on corporate tax cuts is clear."

The Liberals have said that reversing corporate tax cuts is an essential, although not sufficient condition for supporting the budget.

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About the Author

Anne McIlroy has been a journalist for more than 25 years. She joined the Globe in 1996, and has been the science reporter as well as the parliamentary bureau chief. She studied journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa. More

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