Surrounded by members of the Newfoundland and Labrador caucus, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff announces he will allow them to vote against the budget on Parliament Hill on Tuesday. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he will allow four of his MPs from Newfoundland and Labrador to break party ranks and have a one-time-only protest vote against the budget on Tuesday night.

Liberal MPs Scott Andrews, Siobhan Coady, Judy Foote and Scott Simms have argued that they cannot support the budget because it singles out their province and robs it of an estimated $1.6 billion in federal transfer payments.

"I decided to permit them in the budget vote tonight a one-time vote of protest to signal their displeasure and my displeasure at these unilateral actions which, in my view, weaken our federation, cause strains in our federation at a time when Canadians should be pulling together."

The MPs' position puts them at odds with Ignatieff, who has said the party would vote with the government if the Conservatives backed an amendment requiring regular reports to Parliament on the budget’s implementation and costs.

On Monday night, that amendment, with Tory support, passed.

Ignatieff said that the "radical unprecedented" cut to transfer payments by Prime Minister Stephen Harper was made unilaterally, a move Ignatieff said weakens the federation.

Ignatieff said he met with Harper on Monday and asked him to "pause" the cut until they can come up with a reasonable solution. He said the prime minister said no.

The NDP and Bloc Québécois have said they will vote against the budget. The Conservatives need the support of the Liberals to ensure the budget passes.

A defeat would topple the minority Tory government and possibly lead to some kind of coalition government or another election.

Ignatieff defended his decision when asked by reporters why he won't allow Quebec MPs to vote against the budget. The province has also expressed frustration over changes to the equalization payments.

The Liberal leader said the situation is different because Quebec was informed last year about the changes and that those changes affect the whole federation. Ignatieff said the cuts announced in the budget single out Newfoundland and Labrador.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams said he was pleased with Ignatieff's decision.

"I'm fine with that. The principle is established The MPs are being allowed to do what they need to do on behalf of their province. I think the fact that a national leader recognizes that is very important," he said.