Dion says 2008 election possible

Mon Dec 3, 2007 4:16pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The leader of Canada's opposition Liberal Party predicted on Monday there could be an election next year, but stressed he had no immediate plans to try to bring down the minority Conservative government.

"2008 -- we'll see ... after two years maybe people will find that they will be more open to the idea and more willing to compare what we have to offer with the Conservatives," Stephane Dion told reporters.

"The more they are willing to look at that and to compare, the more it will be good for the Liberals, I'm sure."

A series of recent polls show the Liberals trailing the Conservatives of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who won power in January 2006. Minority governments in Canada last about 18 months on average.

Dion is a bookish figure who has had a rough time since winning the Liberal leadership in December 2006. Critics portray him as out of touch, while some inside his party are unhappy with his performance.

A Nanos Research poll released on Monday put Harper well ahead of Dion in terms of trustworthiness, competence and the best vision for Canada. Pollster Nik Nanos said Dion was trying to create a new tough image for himself.

"The problem is that, in this particular environment, he's got a lot of ground to make up," Nanos told Reuters.

The Liberals, the biggest of the opposition parties, have kept the Conservatives in power on several confidence votes this year, causing tension among some party legislators who say they should be opposing the government rather than supporting it.   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Stephane Dion stands to speak in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa November 28, 2007. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle</p>