May 18, 2005: Ottawa Sun: New Tory strategy
The Ottawa Sun, May 18, 2005 Wednesday
FINAL EDITION. SECTION: NEWS; Stronach Defects; Pg. 4
HEADLINE: GRIT EMPIRE STRIKES BACK; HARPER CAVES ON GRIT BUDGET AFTER LOSING MP
BYLINE: BY MARIA MCCLINTOCK, PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU
CONSERVATIVE Leader Stephen Harper backed off his attack on Paul Martin's Liberal budget, announcing late last night that his MPs will now support it.
Harper said his party will still attempt to defeat the Grits on a second budget bill for the $4.6-billion Grit deal inked with the NDP, which sees cash for the environment, education and cities.
Both budget bills come to a vote tomorrow and are considered to be matters of confidence. Should the Liberals lose one of the votes, the government falls and an election is triggered.
Harper insisted he hasn't given up the fight to push Martin out of office.
"We have two votes on Thursday. It's our intention, unless the government pulls some fast ones, to support Bill C-43, the original budget," Harper said after emerging from a two-hour emergency caucus meeting.
INDIE VOTES CRUCIAL
"Bill C-48 is also a vote of confidence, that's what the government said. So we're going to vote non-confidence on Bill C-48. I don't know if we have the numbers or not but we're going to make every effort to defeat that. It will ultimately come down to a couple of Independent (MPs)."
A key part of the main budget bill includes the multibillion-dollar Atlantic Accord. In the last couple of days, Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams has demanded Tory MPs vote with the Liberals to ensure the cash flows.
Earlier in the day, Harper suffered the unexpected defection of his highest profile MP, Belinda Stronach, to the Liberal Party -- a move considered to be a huge blow to his campaign to gain more seats in voter-rich Ontario.
He admitted Stronach's bolting makes toppling Martin's Liberals more difficult.
"Obviously Belinda's actions today make the defeat of the government on Thursday, much less likely, but it doesn't, in any way, change the principled position that our caucus has taken," said Harper.
Harper said he is relieved Stronach is gone, but his caucus was blindsided by the news.
The defection is proof, he said, that the Grits are ready to do anything to win.