NDP to prop up Tories to pass EI changes

The NDP will align itself with the Conservatives in order to pass a Tory plan to extend employment insurance for long-tenured workers — a move that could rule out an election in the near future.

The NDP will align itself with the Conservatives in order to pass a Tory plan to extend employment insurance for long-tenured workers — a move that could rule out an election in the near future.

But NDP Leader Jack Layton cautioned that this would not be a blank cheque of support for the Tories and warned the government it must work to keep his party's support by not proposing any legislation that would alienate the NDP.

"You know, I can't really make any predictions, because it all depends on what comes forward, we're going to take things on a case by case basis," Layton said.

The NDP will join with Bloc Québécois to support the Conservatives financial ways-and-means motion to be introduced on Friday. The motion, which includes the popular tax credits for home renovation, is considered a confidence issue and its defeat could trigger an election.

But the NDP will also support the proposed EI reforms and will vote for the measures in order to get them into a parliamentary committee, which can be a lengthy process.

That means the party would refrain from voting the government down on any other confidence motion that would trigger an election, including a Liberal no-confidence motion expected the first week of October.

The Tories need support from either the NDP or the Bloc, since the Liberals have already said they will vote against the government on any confidence motion.

Earlier, New Democrat MP Thomas Mulcair told reporters that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has "shown movement" with the new EI plan — which translates to nearly $1 billion for 190,000 workers — and is a step in the right direction for what they've been asking for.

"So we’re not going to do anything to block that money. And an election campaign would definitely block it," Mulcair said. "That money wouldn’t flow to those families who need it and that's not something we're going to do."

The proposed legislation would provide from five to 20 weeks of additional benefits, depending on how long an eligible individual has been working and paying into EI.

But the Canadian Autoworkers said the Tories' plan amounted to a few crumbs for unemployed Canadians and will do nothing for laid-off workers in the hard-hit automotive sector.

Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc said he couldn't believe the NDP would be willing to end its record of voting against the government 79 times for a proposal worth less than a billion dollars.

"I think frankly the NDP were so desperate to show their confidence in Mr. Harper, that they allowed themselves to be bought for what is in fact a very modest initiative."

With files from James Cudmore and The Canadian Press