Tue, Dec 02, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Canadian opposition agree on plan for new government

AP , TORONTO

Canada’s opposition parties have agreed in principle to form a coalition that would topple Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, an official said, though infighting among one of the parties cast doubt on whether such a bloc would hold.

The opposition Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois, the parties that would make up the new bloc, say that Harper has no solid plan to deal with the global economic crisis.

Harper’s party won enough votes in the Oct. 14 national election to stay in power, but its hold is tenuous because it did not win a majority of parliament’s 308 seats. The party must rely on opposition support to pass budgets and legislation.

The Liberals and New Democrats have agreed to a coalition government structure that would give them a majority of seats, a New Democrat party official said on Sunday. In the new government, the Liberals would have 19 Cabinet ministers and the left-of-center New Democrats would have six, the official said.

The official said discussions on other aspects on the agreement were continuing and a deal was close to being completed.

It’s not clear if Liberal leader Stephane Dion would become prime minister if Harper were toppled in a vote of no confidence on Monday, the earliest date possible after the prime minister delayed such a vote.

The Liberals were in the midst of a leadership race after Dion said he would step down in May following October’s election loss.

Many Liberals demanded that he step down following the loss after the party suffered one of its worst defeats in its history.

Some Liberals, however, were concerned Dion might try to stay on if the party formed a coalition with the New Democrats and dissension in Liberal ranks over who would lead a coalition government was threatening to derail the plan.

“We obviously have concerns about the internal situation in the Liberal ranks. We can only hope that they can keep it together for the good of the country,” the New Democrat official said.

A Liberal party spokesman didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

The third member of the proposed coalition, Bloc Quebecois, would hold no Cabinet seats under the deal. Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe has said the party has no interest in governing Canada but would back the coalition. The Bloc is a separatist party from the French-speaking province of Quebec that seeks independence from Canada.

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