An outbreak of coyness grips Ottawa as Conservatives woo NDP over budget

An outbreak of coyness grips Ottawa as Conservatives woo NDP over budget

Jack watch: the political class is watching Layton today (Image: Matt Jiggins) 

All poli-nerds will be watching Ottawa today at 4 p.m. as the federal government unveils its 2011 budget—and stakes its political future on the hopes that just one of the opposition parties will build up enough nerve to vote with the government. Votes to approve the budget will come later this week, but what’s becoming clear today is that despite Stephen Harper’s massive lead in the polls, he seems willing to give the NDP something they’ve been demanding: restarting the EcoEnergy program that lets homeowners upgrade their windows and insulation with government help. He has also vaguely hinted that there might be a bit of money for seniors (isn’t there always?). It’s almost as if the Conservatives’ oft-stated belief that they don’t want another election was sincere.

According to the Toronto Star, nobody knows if this will be enough for the NDP to vote with a government they’ve just found in contempt of parliament:

Jack Layton told reporters his party will have to examine the budget before deciding whether to support it.

“We’ve laid out what we think needs to be in that budget,” he said. “We’ll see whether or not the government was listening.”

But the NDP leader appears to be setting the bar for approval very high. “We said we want to see very significant help for seniors with the doubling of the Canada Pension Plan and improvement of the GIS very significantly to lift all seniors out of poverty,” he said.

Whatever Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty bring to the podium this afternoon, we’d wager that “lift all seniors out of poverty” isn’t on the agenda, if only because the theme of the day is supposed to be bringing Ottawa’s books in balance.

So, will the NDP support the government or not? What about the BQ? There are rumours yet again that Ottawa is going to throw some money Quebec’s way for tax harmonization. We’ll have a better idea tomorrow after the parties come out of their weekly caucus meetings. But in this dance, the government just needs one partner to keep the music playing.

• Federal budget to meet some opposition demands [Toronto Star]
• All eyes on Layton ahead of budget [Globe and Mail]
• Dan Arnold: Harper offers Layton a 50% solution [National Post]
• Flaherty to offer election-killing olive branch to NDP in the budget [CP24]