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Election buzz not top of MPs’ minds

The possible content of the forthcoming federal budget is the furthest thing from MP John Rafferty’s mind right now.
The possible content of the forthcoming federal budget is the furthest thing from MP John Rafferty’s mind right now.

The NDP representative for the Thunder Bay – Rainy River riding says all of his energies are focused on moving his pension protection bill – Bill C-501 – through the system as quickly as possible with the threat of an election looming.

“Time is very important now for my bill,” he said. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done particularly in the next eight weeks or so to get this bill through and passed through both houses. If there is an election, if the writ is dropped and an election is called before the senate gives it its stamp of approval then the bill is dead and we have to start all over again after the next election.”

There is nothing in the budget expected in March that would make or break it for Rafferty, adding he has to look at the budget as a single entity; he also doesn’t have a sense for what the Conservative government is going to put into the budget.

“What I’m looking for personally in the budget is for Mr. Harper to have enough elements in this budget that are going to help families across this country that are facing real tough times,” Rafferty said.

He added all parties need to work together, to co-operate in the House, and take practical steps to make people’s lives better.

“Forget the partisanship and attack ads and all that other business and get down to business,” he said. “That’s what Canadians expect us to do.”

Meanwhile, MP Bruce Hyer (NDP, Thunder Bay-Superior North) agreed that the partisan politics need to stop and what he needs to see in the budget is measures to decrease the cost of living.

“It’s got to come down for Canadians,” he said. “The cost of living for the average Canadian has gotten worse.”

Hyer listed helping reach the needs of seniors, health care initiatives like more long-term care beds, doctors and nurses and pension reform as things he’d like to see in the budget, as well as fairer taxation.

“We have to stop the shift off of large corporations onto the backs of small businesses and average citizens,” he said.

But how he will vote won’t be a decision made quickly or easily. This will be his third budget and like the last two, he plans to pull an all-nighter to read the entire document.

“I reserve my opinion until after I’ve read them,” Hyer said. “I have to decide on behalf of the constituents I represent whether this is good for them…This is an important decision.”

With Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff stating their support for the budget will be determined on whether there is a repeal of corporate tax cuts and the Bloc Quebecois saying they need to see $5 billion in concessions for Quebec in order to vote for the budget, the NDP’s vote could trigger an election.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said he’ll look at the whole budget before making any kind of decision on how he will vote.

“These are not things to be taken lightly,” Hyer said. “It’s the single most important event of each year in Parliament and I’m going to take the time I need to analyze the budget carefully and then I will make my decision.”

Hyer added until the writ drops and an election is called, he isn’t considering himself a candidate.

“There’s lots of conjecture about an election but I’ve been through I don’t know how many of these false alarms,” he said. “For now I’m just one of 380 MPs and I will be trying to work with all the other parties and the other MPs to get things done for our riding and for all Canadians.”

Thunder Bay-Rainy River Liberal nominee Ken Boshcoff isn’t convinced an election will be called either.

“Personally whenever Parliament isn’t in session, it generates election talk so now that Parliament’s started again, I’m sure that’s going to dissipate,” he said, noting that if an election is called, he doesn’t foresee it having an effect on his duties as a municipal councillor at large.

“It could only be maybe two or three meetings that would be during an election timeframe…there is no real impact on either job. It kind of goes and comes very quickly.”

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