A Liberal government would eliminate the $52-billion federal deficit "hole" created by Stephen Harper's Conservatives without raising Canadians' taxes, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Wednesday, but refused to give details of how he planned to do it.
"Wait and see," Ignatieff told reporters at the end of a news conference at the Liberal caucus retreat in Sudbury, Ont.
Speaking a day after he announced he wouldn't support Harper's minority Conservative government in the fall session of Parliament, Ignatieff said there is nothing the prime minister could offer his party to change his mind.
"We're not in negotiation here. We did that in June," he said.
Ignatieff said he made a "clear decision after a great deal of thought" and it's now up to the other parties to decide what they want to do.
"In June, I said to the people of Canada that I was disappointed with the government's performance, and we had an agreement with the prime minister to work seriously on the employment insurance issue," Ignatieff said.
"The key thing was to determine whether we could work with the government on an important issue, an issue that's important to 1.5 million jobless in Canada, and we discovered after 10 weeks of very difficult work that it was not possible … that we had to go back to our principles."
On deficit spending, Ignatieff accused the Tories of "spraying around money like a kid with a garden hose" in reaction to the economic crisis with "no strategic purpose."
Ignatieff said the fact that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's $32-billion projection for the deficit this fiscal year has ballooned to more than $50 billion raises serious questions about Flaherty and Harper's "basic competence."
When asked what the next election would be fought over, Ignatieff defined the ballot question as, "Who is best placed to lead Canada into the economy of tomorrow?"
He cited the Liberals' track record while in power of balancing the deficits of previous Tory governments in the mid-1990s as proof a future Liberal government would tackle the fiscal burden.
"We inherited a $42-billion deficit from Mr. Mulroney and we had to clean it up, and we did so without raising taxes," he said. "We’ve inherited a $52-billion hole with Mr. Harper — we will clean it up without raising taxes."
Harper has criticized opposition parties for having no plan to deal with the recession and has insisted a Liberal government would raise taxes and cut programs to deal with deficits.
Even Ignatieff has suggested he would consider raising taxes in the past. In December, he said that if Canadians are coping with a deep deficit in three or four years from now, "you can't exclude tax increases to get us out."
"I'm not going to take a GST hike off the table," he added.
'Robust' environmental plan promised
When asked what his party's environmental platform would be in a possible fall election campaign, Ignatieff made no mention of his predecessor Stéphane Dion's unpopular Green Shift strategy, instead promising a "robust" environmental package calling for a continental cap-and-trade system with absolute carbon-dioxide emission levels.
The Liberal leader also hit out at the Conservatives for waiting for details of U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy to battle the rise in greenhouse gases and climate change, saying the government has had three different environment ministers, three different plans and "no action at all."
"We are not going to wait for the United States; we are not going to wait for Mr. Obama," Ignatieff said. "Canadian climate-change policy gets made in Canada. It doesn't get made in the United States."
The Conservatives' detailed climate-change plan will be released before a major UN conference at the end of this year.
Earlier Wednesday, Liberal MPs were given previews of election campaign ads that touched on themes of Ignatieff's campaign-style address to caucus members, while lambasting the Harper government for racking up record deficits, as well as the country's unemployment rate and the Tories' handling of the medical isotopes shortage, the CBC's Julie Van Dusen reported.
The Liberal campaign ads featuring Ignatieff will be posted on a website on Sunday, Van Dusen said.
For several months, Ignatieff has been the subject of negative Tory ads, which portray him as an elitist who has spent too much of his adult life abroad to understand the needs and concerns of Canadians.
NDP, Bloc don't rule out working with Tories
Parliament resumes Sept. 14 and the Liberals will have their first opportunity to present a no-confidence motion on Oct. 1. Liberal MP Bob Rae has said the party would present the motion "at the first available opportunity."
There is a chance a vote could come even sooner. Conservative sources indicated to CBC News that the government could introduce a ways-and- means motion to implement some aspects of last January's budget, including the popular home-renovation tax credit, as soon as Parliament resumes.
To survive a no-confidence vote, the Conservatives will likely have to reach out to the two other opposition parties that have voted against them in the past to prevent the government from falling.
New Democrat MP Libby Davies said Wednesday her party will take the next session on a case-by-case basis.
"We're not going to get into this game of election-fuelling or speculation. We will act in a very responsible way," Davies told CBC News. "Our first job is to make Parliament work, and when we head back on Sept. 14, that's what we intend to do."
NDP Leader Jack Layton is scheduled to comment on Ignatieff's strategy Thursday.
Speaking to a Calgary radio show on Wednesday, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said he didn't think it is possible for the government and the NDP to reach an agreement for support in a no-confidence vote.
"Look, we've always tried to demonstrate willingness to co-operate with the opposition parties," Kenney told host Dave Rutherford.
"We did in the last budget. But we're not for sale to the highest bidder, least of all the NDP. It's a party of hard-core, left-wing ideologues. …These folks, they drink their own Kool-Aid, right?"
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said Wednesday his party would continue to support the interests of Quebec in the House of Commons, but did not rule out supporting the government in a no-confidence vote.
"If it's good for Quebec, we're supporting it. If it's not, we're opposing it, and we will be facing the consequences," Duceppe told reporters in a news conference in Bois-des-Filion. "We are ready."
Duceppe also accused the Tories and Liberals of having the "same attitude" in ignoring Quebec's hard-hit forestry and manufacturing industries while pumping billions in aid into Ontario's auto sector.
He said the Bloc was the only party to submit costed economic recovery and employment insurance reform proposals to the government in the last session.