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Tories blast Duceppe's attempt at budget 'blackmail'

Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe looks on as MP Daniel Paille speaks to reporters after the party's caucus meeting in Quebec City on Jan. 27, 2011.

MATHIEU BELANGER/REUTERS

1. Don't forget the kitchen sink. Stephen Harper's Conservatives are spitting mad over Gilles Duceppe's demands for a $5-billion compensation package in return for support for the budget.

According to one government MP, reports detailing the Bloc Québécois Leader's ask spread through the Tory caucus like "wildfire" on Wednesday.

"The demand is outrageous," the MP said, vowing the Tories would not be "blackmailed" into avoiding an election despite Mr. Harper's repeated vows not to provoke one.

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The MP described Mr. Duceppe's ultimatum - $2.2-billion to harmonize the sales taxes and another $2.8-billion for various funding issues, including compensation for changes to equalization payments and even a few hundred million for the 1998 ice storm clean-up - as "unreasonable and bordering on outright insulting."

"We're on a path to economic recovery and fiscal balance and we're not going to abandon that path to push back an election," the well-placed Tory said. "In truth, while we would rather see a 2012 election and feel it's in the country's best interest, we're in better shape than anyone to fight an election."

While this latest salvo from the Bloc is taking election speculation even higher, there is a view that Jack Layton's NDP could save the day. "Reasonable budget requests (like some of Jack's) have a chance but the budget will be a plan we think is best for the country following consultations. It will not be a document loaded with opposition wish lists," the MP said.

2. Shills and bagmen push back. While he might have good ideas about the budget, Jack Layton isn't winning any Tory friends with his proposals for Senate reform.

Conservative strategists are pushing back against the NDP Leader's characterization of the Red Chamber as being full of unelected Tory bagmen and political operatives poised to kill legislation duly passed by elected MPs.

"Jack Layton - All Talk, No Action on Senate Reform," is the headline of a memo circulated to the Conservative faithful Wednesday night. "Jack Layton, the leader of the NDP has called for Reforms to the Senate, yet every time we bring forward our Senate reform legislation, his party delays and obstructs to keep it from moving forward."

The Tories say the Senate would be reformed quickly if the NDP would agree to support their legislation to limit terms to eight years and give Canadians "a direct say in who represents them in the Senate."

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Mr. Layton, meanwhile, has called for two small reforms to get the ball rolling towards abolition, since she NDP does not think the Senate is useful or relevant to Canadians.

In a speech to a parliamentary group Wednesday, Mr. Layton called on the Prime Minister to stop appointing failed candidates and party insiders to the Red Chamber. In addition, he asked that all senators be banned from fundraising for political parties.

Both Conservatives and Liberals have used Senate appointments to reward senior fundraisers and campaign strategists - as well as have their partisan work paid for by taxpayers. It's a good deal for the parties but not such a great deal for Canadians, leading the NDP decry the practice as an unfair subsidy.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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