Dion plays down election talk

Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:23pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - The head of Canada's main opposition Liberal Party played down speculation on Tuesday that he might try to bring down the government soon, following byelections on Monday that added three Liberal legislators to Parliament.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion stuck to his position that the party would decide when and how to defeat the Conservatives, who only control a minority of the seats in the House of Commons and must have the support of at least one other party to remain in power.

"We are always ready for an election, but we'll choose our time, and our priority is to be sure that this government will be kept accountable and that Parliament will work," he said.

Dion is under increasing pressure from party members unhappy that he has kept the Conservatives in power several times over the last year. They want him to defeat the government, but two polls released on Tuesday gave the Liberals little reason to smile.

A Harris-Decima survey for Canadian Press showed the Liberals and Conservatives tied at just 32 percent public support, not enough to guarantee even a stable minority government for either party.

"Any party looking for a reason to cause an election in these numbers will find it hard to locate one," said Bruce Anderson of Harris-Decima. A poll by a rival company put the Liberals 11 percentage points behind.

Under Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs to capture around 40 percent of the public vote to stand a reasonable chance of winning a majority.

Dion unexpectedly won a Liberal leadership race in December 2006 but since then, the former academic has had great difficulty imposing his authority, in part because so few legislators initially backed his candidacy.   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Stephane Dion (C) speaks at a news conference with newly elected House of Commons member Bob Rae (L) in Toronto, March 18, 2008. The Liberals captured three of four federal seats in Monday's by-elections. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>