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As House opens, spotlight is on Ignatieff

Liberal Leader will make Conservatives wait until Wednesday to learn whether their government will survive

From Monday's Globe and Mail

OTTAWA — Parliament reopens with a bang this week for the first time since Prime Minister Stephen Harper shut it down late last year to avoid certain defeat at the hands of opposition parties.

It will take until Wednesday though before Mr. Harper officially learns whether his minority government survives.

After a new Throne Speech today to set what Conservatives have promised would be a businesslike tone in the face of a spreading recession, Mr. Harper's Tories will unveil a massive stimulus budget tomorrow that should determine the fate of their 15-week-old government.

Mr. Harper's task is to give Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff sufficient reason to vote for the budget instead of following through on a pact with the NDP and Bloc Québécois to defeat the Tories and replace them with a coalition. The NDP has already vowed to vote against tomorrow's budget and the Bloc has set its conditions of support extremely high.

Mr. Ignatieff, who only took over as Liberal Leader last month, is going to make Mr. Harper wait for his answer.

Since the 2006 budget, Liberal leaders have emerged within hours to say whether they would vote against it.

But Mr. Ignatieff will delay his verdict until after he's slept on it. He will announce his decision on Wednesday, staff said.

The Liberal Leader will still comment on the budget after its release, but will then start consulting Liberal MPs.

“He's going to hold a caucus meeting. … He's going to consult with his caucus and economic advisers and he will announce his intentions the next day,” spokeswoman Jill Fairbrother said.

Yesterday Liberal finance critic John McCallum told CTV's Question Period that the party's budget support is not assured. “Don't count your chickens yet,” he said.

Mr. McCallum outlined how the Liberals might judge the budget: “We will be asking ‘Does this budget support the vulnerable? Does it protect jobs of today, jobs of tomorrow? Is it regionally fair? And does it avoid saddling our children with massive debt?' If the answers to those questions are all satisfactory, and if the actions are proportional to the grave situation in which … Canadians find themselves, then we will probably support the budget.”

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