Canadian PM vows to block coalition takeover

Wed Dec 3, 2008 8:46pm EST
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By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, fighting to stay in power, promised in a rare televised address on Wednesday to use "every legal means" to block an opposition plan to replace his minority Conservative government.

Harper will visit Governor General Michaelle Jean on Thursday morning and is expected to ask her to suspend Parliament until his newly re-elected government delivers a budget on January 27.

The governor general represents Queen Elizabeth, Canada's head of state, and has the final word on such constitutional matters.

The Liberals and New Democrats -- with the support of the separatist Bloc Quebecois -- are vowing to defeat Harper in a confidence vote on Monday and form a coalition government in what has become one of Canada's worst political crises.

"At a time like this, a coalition with separatists cannot help Canada," a somber Harper said in his televised address.

"Tonight I pledge to you that Canada's government will use every legal means at our disposal to protect our democracy, to protect our economy and to protect Canada."

It would mark the first time in Canadian federal history a prime minister had asked for the suspension of Parliament so soon after an election. The government had said it might need to do that to counter what it argues would be an undemocratic move by the opposition to take power.

The opposition parties, which are to the political left of the Conservatives, complain there was little in the government's recent fiscal statement to combat the economic slowdown. But what galvanized them was a government attempt -- now abandoned -- to cut off direct financial subsidies to political parties.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 3, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>