Sun, Aug 31, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Canadian PM may call election in the next week

CONFIDENCE ISSUES?The three opposition parties could bring the government down if they vote together in a no-confidence motion when parliament resumes


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will likely dissolve parliament as early as next week and schedule an election in October to try to shore up his minority government, a senior official in his office said.

The official said on Friday that Harper was most likely to pull the plug on the government between Tuesday and Sunday, with Oct. 14 being the most likely date for an election. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

Harper’s Conservatives have a tenuous hold on power, and all three opposition parties have said or suggested they would try to bring his government down with a “no confidence” vote soon.

Quebec-based Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe emerged from a meeting with Harper on Friday saying Harper is intent on calling an election before parliament resumes on Sept. 15.

“He absolutely wants to call an election,” Duceppe said. “His plan is made. He wants an election. Period.”

Harper has requested talks with the leaders of parliament’s three opposition parties, claiming he is seeking the green light for his minority government’s fall legislative agenda.

But given the acrimonious political climate in Ottawa, the meetings appear certain to present Harper with the pretext for calling an immediate election.

Analysts say he has a better shot of winning sooner than later when the Canadian economy might be worse off. Harper also might want to go before voters ahead of the US presidential election in November, which could bring a Democrat to the White House and encourage Canadians to choose a more liberal government.

Harper’s government could be brought down after parliament resumes on Sept. 15 if the three opposition parties vote against the government in a no confidence motion.

The Conservatives now have 127 of the 308 seats in parliament. The Liberals have 95, Bloc Quebecois 48 and the New Democrats 30.

Four seats are held by Independents, and four remain vacant.

Harper’s Conservatives unseated the Liberals in 2006 after nearly 13 years in power, but as a minority his government has been forced to rely on opposition lawmakers to pass legislation.

A call for a national election before Sept. 8 would force the cancelation of by-elections and deny the opposition parties any momentum should they win. Opposition parties are favored in at least two of the seats.

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