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Protestors follow NDP Leader Jack Layton as he arrives at the Langevin Block to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Aug. 25, 2009. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)
Protestors follow NDP Leader Jack Layton as he arrives at the Langevin Block to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Aug. 25, 2009. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)

Layton sees no reason to back PM Add to ...

NDP Leader Jack Layton spent an hour behind closed doors chatting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper Tuesday, but said he walked away with nothing that would forestall a fall election.

"I didn't see any change in direction on the part of the government in my conversation with Mr. Harper," Mr. Layton told reporters during a news conference after the meeting.

Mr. Layton said he raised the case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud , the Toronto woman who was stranded in Kenya because federal officials didn't believe she was Canadian. The people of Canada need to know procedures are in place to protect them, the NDP Leader said.

Mr. Layton said he pressed Mr. Harper to adopt policies to improve pensions, create jobs, end high credit-card fees and improve the situation of the unemployed. But Mr. Harper, he said, doesn't seem to understand "the depth of the unemployment situation and how it can get worse, and the urgency of an additional stimulus package."

Party leaders traditionally meet before the fall session of Parliament to determine areas where they share common ground. But this meeting, and those that may follow, are of heightened interest because election threats are in the air.

The Liberals will have an opportunity to introduce a motion of no-confidence in Mr. Harper's Conservatives as early as Sept. 30.

Mr. Layton frequently boasts that his party has voted against the government on every confidence motion that has been put before Parliament since the Conservatives took office in 2006.

He said Tuesday that "the NDP would be the least likely of the political parties to support the Conservatives in office because we have very fundamental differences with the direction that they're taking the country."

But he stopped short of a definitive statement that the New Democrats would not back the Tories.

Former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin cut a deal with Mr. Layton in 2005 for the NDP to prop up his government in exchange for assurances that social issues of key interest to New Democrats would be addressed.

Asked if Mr. Harper had expressed any willingness to follow the same route, Mr. Layton said no. "I would have to say there wasn't an indication of interest along those lines."

Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Mr. Harper, said the government has, in fact, done some of things Mr. Layton has proposed.

"The unfortunate side of that is that on 79 occasions, the NDP has voted no-confidence in this government since the last election," said Mr. Soudas.

"The meeting was cordial. But it's also clear to us that the NDP want to work with the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois. I think that Mr. Layton asked for the meeting so he can pretend he's not working with his coalition partners, but the reality is that he is."

Mr. Soudas was referring to the failed coalition between the New Democrats and the Liberals under former leader Stéphane Dion that threatened to bring down the government shortly after last fall's election.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has said he will introduce a no-confidence motion if the Conservatives do not sufficiently reform the employment insurance program to help people who have lost their jobs during the economic downturn.

However, during a trip to Yellowknife yesterday he sought to play down talk of a fall vote, saying his party wants good government, not an election.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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