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This article was published 27/1/2011 (3282 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — To hear Stephen Harper and Jack Layton talk, you'd think there might be an election-averting budget compromise in the air.
To listen to some other Conservatives and New Democrats, however, it's less clear.
"My position remains that we are, of course, very interested in hearing from the opposition on any particular measures that would help the Canadian economy," the prime minister said Thursday during a trade-mission stop in Morocco. "And obviously we're listening very carefully in that regard."
Since the Tories have a minority government, they need to court the support of at least one opposition party to avoid an election over the March budget — if indeed they want to avoid an election.
Like Harper, Layton is indicating that he's open to compromise. He says his approach is to make concrete budget proposals for the Tories to consider, and show the electorate he "can actually get something done in this Parliament."
He reiterated his list of budget ideas Thursday, saying the NDP will evaluate the budget as a whole.
"If we close the door to all the ways of making Parliament work, we are not in the game. We are not engaged," he said.
Some of the things Layton is looking for:
— More money for poor seniors: a $700-million increase in the guaranteed income supplement for seniors.
— Elimination of the federal sales tax on home heating.
— Replenishment of funds for environmental upgrades to homes.
— A more generous Canada Pension Plan.
But Thomas Mulcair, the NDP finance critic and deputy leader, has taken a far harder line than Layton on the budget.
Like Layton, Mulcair argues that the corporate tax cuts planned by the Conservatives are a gift to big business at the expense of regular Canadians.
Layton, however, will not make his support of the budget contingent on a repealing of those tax cuts, while Mulcair goes much further.
Mulcair said it's "highly unlikely" that New Democrat MPs could bring themselves to support a budget that does not cancel Tory plans to cut corporate taxes again in 2012.
The NDP seems to be the only opposition party willing to dance with the Tories in the budget-making exercise.
The Liberals have staked their support on a repeal of the corporate tax cuts.
And the Bloc Quebecois says it wants $5 billion in concessions for Quebec — a price tag dismissed as unrealistic by the Tories.
— The Canadian Press