PM has new love for 'socialists': Ignatieff

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff accuses Stephen Harper of forming his own coalition with the NDP, as members of Parliament return from summer break to speculation of a possible federal election.

Liberals prepared to vote down government

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff accused Stephen Harper of forming his own coalition with the NDP, as members of Parliament returned Monday from summer break to speculation of a possible federal election.

Ignatieff fired the first salvo at Prime Minister Stephen Harper during question period, accusing him of cozying up to the NDP — the same people he has referred to as socialists. The attack was in reference to a Tory plan to extend employment insurance benefits, a proposal the NDP has signalled it could support.

It was also a reference to a recent speech Harper gave to his supporters, in which the prime minister warned that if the Conservatives don't get a majority, the Liberals will govern in a coalition, "propped up by the socialists and the separatists."

"I find it curious that after weeks of berating the idea of a coalition, the prime minister seems to be hard at work forming one himself and with people that he referred to until this morning as socialists," Ignatieff said.

"I'm just wondering whether the prime minister could confirm his new-found love for socialism."

Harper countered by saying Ignatieff was "flailing around" trying to invent reasons to force an election that Canadians don't want.

Ignatieff followed by slamming the Harper government's economic record.

"The prime minister promised Canada five years of surplus, and then he told us that his recession would be a great buying opportunity. Then he slapped Canada with a $32 billion deficit. Whoops, that went to 50 and now it’s 56 and he’s going to make Canadians pay for it with higher payroll taxes."

But Harper said Canada was affected by the global recession and, in relative terms, is in better shape than other countries. He turned Ignatieff's question around and called on Ignatieff to forward his economic plans.

"I would invite the leader of the opposition, since he has yet to table any comprehensive economic agenda at all … I would invite him to bring it here so we can debate it."

Confidence motion

The first day of question period arrived amid speculation of a looming federal election. On Friday, the government plans to bring forward a financial ways-and-means motion. The motion, which includes the popular tax credits for home renovation, is considered a confidence issue, and its defeat could trigger an election.

Ignatieff has already indicated his party will vote against the government at the first opportunity. The Bloc Québécois are still uncertain which way they'll go.

But support from the NDP would be all the Tories need to stave off an election. NDP Leader Jack Layton suggested Monday that the Conservative proposal to extend employment insurance for long-tenured workers could be enough to garner support from his party.

If the widely expected confidence vote does not occur this week, the Liberals will have the opportunity to bring forward a confidence measure in the first week of October.

With files from The Canadian Press