Article by: Joe Wamback
ALL OF CANADA – No more free rides, Dion warns Harper
By THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA — The Liberals are warning Stephen Harper that they will no longer give him a free legislative pass — as they did in the last session of Parliament — to avoid another federal election.
Leader Stephane Dion says his MPs no longer have the stomach for abstaining from, or not showing up for, confidence votes.
“It’s certainly the sense that the caucus gave to me today,” Dion said Thursday as he emerged from a meeting of Liberal MPs and senators.
“It’s very clear that we will be an Official Opposition, that we will be very constructive, that we’ll look at each vote on its merit, and if we don’t think there is a merit, well we’ll vote as a team, altogether.”
However, since the Conservatives won a stronger minority in the Oct. 14 election, it would take only a handful of opposition no-shows to ensure the government survives.
MPs return to work Nov. 18 with a throne speech from the government the following day.
Opposition MPs say they will oppose proposed Conservative legislation that would see criminals treated more harshly.
The measures include life sentences for youths as young as 14 who are convicted of murder, and fewer conditional sentences that allow criminals to serve their time at home.
Dion says the Liberals will vote against any legislation they disagree with, even if the Tories deem the proposals confidence matters.
Rejection of such legislation could potentially force an election at a time when the Liberals are in the process of replacing Dion as party leader.
The Conservatives have suggested their crime legislation will be brought before the Commons quickly, and they’ve warned they won’t back down.
The Liberal party’s executive is to meet in Ottawa this weekend to decide the rules for a leadership convention, expected to be held in May in Vancouver.
Dion said he wants to ensure the process for choosing his successor is respectful and that people he has appointed to key positions in the Liberal caucus refrain from showing any bias toward particular leadership candidates as they conduct parliamentary business.
“Everybody must be neutral,” he said.
New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc and former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae have already declared their intention to run for the leadership.
MP Michael Ignatieff, front-runner in the last leadership race, is warming up his campaign machine but has yet to formally announce his candidacy.