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NDP Leader Jack Layton during Question Period on Wednesday, June 9. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)
NDP Leader Jack Layton during Question Period on Wednesday, June 9. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Layton challenges absent PM to a bare-knuckle round on detainees Add to ...

The lake is fake but the money is real, the Liberals charged in Question Period, pounding away on their theme of Harper Conservative waste and mismanagement over the handling of the G8 and G20 summits.

That and Jack Layton's challenge to the Prime Minster to go mano a mano to duke out a deal over the release of secret Afghan-detainee documents dominated the 45-minute question session on Monday.

"The Conservatives are trying to run out the clock here to prevent Members of Parliament from getting access to documents that would tell the truth about torture in Afghanistan. Enough is enough," charged the NDP Leader. "We are done with the foot dragging here. We are done with the cancelled meetings. … We're done with the countless efforts to circumvent your ruling."

Mr. Layton was referring to House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken's ruling last April ordering the Harper government to reveal the documents or be found in contempt of Parliament.

Many deadlines have passed and extensions given since then but still no deal. The time for negotiations is getting tight as the House is set to rise for its summer break on Thursday.

"If his ministers fail to conclude an agreement this afternoon is the Prime Minister ready to take it to the next level, leader to leader, tonight?" Mr. Layton said.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasn't in the House today to respond to Mr. Layton's throwing down of the gauntlet.

That was left to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, who didn't bite. Instead, he argued the meetings were going well and was optimistic an agreement could be reached.

He also invited the leaders to come to this afternoon's meeting and sign the document to conclude the negotiations.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff also focused in on the Afghan detainee issue today - noting it has been seven weeks since the Speaker ordered the Harper government to reach a deal to turn over the documents.

Mr. Ignatieff said an agreement is in reach, possibly later today.

Mr. Ignatieff also criticized the government for delaying.

"It is also clear that the government is dragging its feet with no good reason," charged Mr. Ignatieff. "The government keeps inventing excuses to avoid dealing with this matter. How long will this stalling go on?"

The Justice Minister repeated that he and his government have been prepared to sign a deal at each and every meeting, of which there have been about 10.

Meanwhile, Liberal Public Safety critic Mark Holland grilled the government over its summit costs, accusing it of hastily planning the G20 summit, which is being held in Toronto, on the "back of a napkin."

"Taxpayers are left with a billion-dollar bill. How did they so badly mismanage this?" questioned Mr. Holland.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon dismissed his critic's premise, arguing that a large part of the cost is for security, which is "extremely important", and some money has been put aside to "be able to make sure that we can celebrate Canada."

That didn't suit Mr. Holland, who mocked Mr. Cannon, saying his answer was "as shallow as (the) fake lake". He then proceeded to accuse the Conservatives of spending taxpayers' money "like they're having a going-out-of-business sale."

Not so, said Transport Minister John Baird, who argued that the summits are being handled and managed by the "professional members of the public service."

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