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Stanton defends Harper

By Nathan Taylor, Orillia Packet & Times

The rhetoric coming from members of all parties is harmful to the country during such an uncertain period in its history, and it doesn't help Bruce Stanton, either, said the Simcoe North MP, who's known for his respectful approach to politics.

Echoing the comments recently made by his party leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Stanton noted there are some Conservatives who, like NDP and Liberal members, need to cool it.

"For a guy like me, this is the worst possible scenario," Stanton told The Packet & Times. "I've got people at home who like the work I do and support me, but I fall into the same wicket as everyone else."

That's why the suspension of Parliament until late January "was perhaps the last tool in our basket to be able to allow parliamentarians to take a step back," he said.

"We can't face the House of Commons until we know that we've got a way forward that is going to garner sufficient support to get the confidence of the House," Stanton said.

The question now is whether the Conservatives can present a budget that will win the support of the opposition parties and prevent a Liberal- NDP coalition from defeating the minority government.

Many believe such compromise and co-operation cannot be achieved with Harper at the helm, but Stanton still thinks Harper is the best man for the job.

"We're still the government of the day. We were the clear choice of Canadians just seven weeks ago. The other leaders in this group did not get the endorsement of Canadians," he said.

The prime minister recently gave an "open invitation" to opposition parties to work together with the government, Stanton noted.

"We have to be sincere in that offer. They can't just be hollow words," he said. "The test will be that budget."

When the finance minister delivered his economic update -- which sparked the current political firestorm -- Stanton didn't think the proposal to eliminate vote subsidies to parties would have backfired the way it did.

"I couldn't have imagined that the response would be as vehement as it was," he said, maintaining it is reasonable to ask politicians to "tighten their belts" with the rest of the country. "Now, looking back on it, I see... just how much particularly the other parties have come to rely on this quarterly allowance."

Despite the Liberal party's poor showing in the election and its shaky financial state, the measure was not a "devious or deliberate move in terms of trying to undermine anybody's party," he said, adding parties have other sources of revenue.

He also shared in Harper's concern about the degree of the Bloc Québécois' involvement as a supporter of the coalition.

While the Bloc has supported both Liberal and Conservative governments on confidence motions in the past, "the difference is the Bloc's whole raison d'être is about doing what's good for the sovereignty of Quebec," he said.

The rhetoric from opponents to the coalition includes charges that the pact is antidemocratic. While it's legal and constitutional, Stanton said it has anti-democratic elements.

"The coalition-government approach might seem democratic, but it often puts parties in the position where they have to go into the back room to forge these arrangements, which the public really has no participation in," he said.

Between now and the end of January, Stanton doesn't want to see anybody use the timeout for politicking.

"It needs to be about the economy. As far as going out and trying to vilify some political opponent at this stage in the game... I can't tell you how disappointed people would be," he said.

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