Federal budget could force spring election

(From left) federal NDP candidate Craig Speirs

(From left) federal NDP candidate Craig Speirs

Forget about that bit about the parties getting together and making a budget that would pass and spare Canada a spring election.

That went out the window after the NDP announced Tuesday it wasn’t backing Stephen Harper’s Conservative budget, “as presented.”

Last-minute deals could still occur to stave off a successful non-confidence vote, although the NDP candidate in Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission doubts it.

Craig Speirs says there’s a 95-per-cent chance an election will be called.

“I’ll be really happy if we have an election. I think it’s time. They have lost any credibility.”

Speirs said the Conservatives knew what the NDP wanted in the budget, and by not including them, they’re saying they want an election.

“For them not to respond to that says to me that the government wants an election.”

In an NDP news release, leader Jack Layton said the budget failed to strengthen the Canada Pension Plan and provides no relief for heating bills.

“And the GIS increase is a half-measure, leaving tens of thousands seniors still living in poverty.” That comprised increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement to poor seniors, giving up to another $840 a year for a couple.

Speirs said a non-confidence vote could come this Friday, triggering an election, unless deals are made, or two parties form a coalition.

“They’re just treating democracy like a door mat. They have to be challenged like any bully.”

He criticized the government’s plan to increase spending for prisons, saying if the government spend an eighth of that on drug addiction services, the problem would go away.

After just listening to the budget, Conservative MP Randy Kamp says the opposition has a choice between “opportunism” and working to secure Canada’s economic recovery.

“We’re hopeful that the opposition parties will support our low-tax plan for jobs and growth as presented today.”

While the NDP has said it won’t support the budget, the party could abstain from voting, Kamp said.

The budget extends the eco retrofit program for homeowners, and boosts Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors, he pointed out. If the party agreed with the NDP on every point, the party would be NDP – not Conservative, Kamp added.

But on Tuesday, he too said it seemed like an election was likely.

“I’m not optimistic, to be frank.”

If that happens, “We’ve got an entire team of committed volunteers that are raring to go.”

The same goes for Speirs, who says he has a campaign team at the ready, office space lined up and lawn signs ordered.

“It’s going to take a lot of people to unseat Kamp. He’s fairly popular even if he hasn’t done much.”

In the meantime, Speirs will continue his duties as a municipal councillor for Maple Ridge.

“I’ll be out there trolling for votes at every opportunity.”

The Liberals have a candidate lined up, but won’t reveal the name until an election is called.

Peter Tam will be running for the Green party.

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