Canadian government boosts election speculation

Thu Feb 7, 2008 4:47pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's minority Conservative government stoked up talk of an early election on Thursday, threatening a quick vote of confidence in a clear bid to make the chief opposition leader look weak.

Ministers said legislators could vote as early as Monday unless the Senate upper chamber made clear it would pass a crime bill by the end of the month.

Two opposition parties immediately said they would ensure the government did not fall over the crime bill motion, but a series of other confidence votes expected over the next two months kept election speculation on the boil.

The Conservatives are confident of their electoral chances and appeared ready to use the threat of an election to force the opposition's hand.

"It's a juvenile trick by a government desperate to fall," Liberal leader Stephane Dion, head of the largest opposition party, told a crush of reporters as he announced his party would ensure the government survived on this vote.

If the government were to lose a confidence vote in the House of Commons, it would be defeated and an election called immediately.

Polls show the most likely result of an election now would be another minority Conservative government. The Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, won power in January 2006.

They are flush with cash and cite polling numbers showing Harper is preferred over Dion. Some Conservatives also say it might be better to go now, when unemployment is low, than later when a global slowdown might have started to bite.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands to speak during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 7, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>