Canada may escape election in first half of year

Wed Mar 12, 2008 1:59pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Some opposition Liberals still talk about the possibility of quickly bringing down Canada's minority Conservative government, but the prospects of an election before the autumn seem to be receding.

The government, elected in January 2006, is already the fourth-longest minority in Canadian history and has survived a series of confidence votes with the help of the main opposition Liberal Party.

The Liberals are letting the government win confidence votes this week on the budget, the combat mission in Afghanistan and climate change legislation, and indicated they would only trigger an election in coming months if the polls shifted dramatically.

"You go when you can win. It's very simple," Member of Parliament Bryon Wilfert, a key adviser of Liberal leader Stephane Dion, told reporters as he entered the weekly Liberal caucus meeting on Wednesday.

"I don't think anyone is in a position to win right now. We're both in the low 30s," he said, referring to the percentage support the Liberals and Conservatives have in opinion polls.

On Tuesday, in announcing that the Liberals would not bring the government down this week over the budget, legislator John McCallum said the party would consider its options in April or May. "Later on in the session, all options are open," he said.

He also expressed some discomfort in continuing to have to support the Conservatives, whether by abstaining or by just having a few Liberals vote against the government but not enough to topple it.

"I think we are accepting the leadership of our leader and we are happily but slightly uncomfortably voting the way we have been voting," McCallum said.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (C) receives a standing ovation from his caucus while voting against an amendment to the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 3, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>