Liberal platform doesn't include notwithstanding clause ban

The Liberal party platform makes no mention of the Constitution's notwithstanding clause, but Paul Martin repeated on Wednesday his promise to take away Ottawa's ability to use it

Liberal Leader Paul Martin said his vow to ban the federal government's use of the Constitution's notwithstanding clause is something he's been thinking about "for a long time," despite the fact there is no mention of the issue in the party's platform.

The Liberals released their platform, called Securing Canada's Success, on Wednesday.

Martin spoke at the Canadian Club in Toronto to outline both the 84-page document and what he said was the key issue of the election: the differing visions he and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper have of the country.

Martin said he wants to build on Canada's successes, while Harper wants to change Canada so that it is unrecognizable.

He said the Conservatives ''promise-a-day'' campaign would require them to raise taxes, and to cut the Liberals child-care and aboriginal programs.

"What more would he cut. We don't know. Because he won't say. And he should," Martin said.

Much of the Liberal platform has already been announced during the campaign, including promises on tax cuts, education funding, health-care wait times, fighting crime, and universal child care.

Martin said the platform has been fully costed, and vows to continue running budget surpluses. The platform, with pledges made during, and just before the campaign total about $15 billion dollars for five years.

It also promises to work toward a global ban on weapons in space.

Nowhere does it mention amending the Constitution to take away the federal government's ability to invoke the notwithstanding clause to circumvent the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Conservative MP Monte Solberg said it proves the Liberals are making up their policy on the fly.

During a leaders debate on Monday, Martin said "the first thing" his government would do after the election would be to seek such a constitutional change.

In his speech at the Canadian Club, Martin warned of a Tory secret agenda to use the notwithstanding clause to take away individual rights, such as same-sex marriage.

"Members of Mr. Harper's party have promised right-wing conservative groups that, if they are elected, they will ensure parliamentary votes on a woman's right to choose, on same-sex marriage and on other social issues," Martin said.

Following his speech, Martin was questioned by reporters why he had not included the notwithstanding clause issue in his platform book. He said that not everything he will be saying over the remainer of the campaign is included in the platform document.

He said he has been thinking about the issue of banning the notwithstanding clause "for a long time."

Martin said he raised the issue during the debate because it was "sufficiently important" and that he wanted to be able to talk about it "in front of the largest audience possible."

He said he believes Ottawa should not be able to overrule decisions made by the Supreme Court.

"I don't believe the prime minister can cherry pick rights," Martin told reporters.

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