Liberals split over forcing election

Wed Feb 13, 2008 3:04pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Liberal Party is divided over whether to bring down the minority Conservative government over its upcoming budget, a sign that Prime Minister Stephen Harper may stay in office longer than expected.

Liberal legislators and officials said on Wednesday there was no consensus on what position to take on three confidence votes that will quickly follow the Conservatives' budget on February 26.

The budget is now the main confidence vote the Conservatives must win to remain in power. The government holds only a minority of seats in the House of Commons and must win the support of at least one opposition party.

The Liberals, the main opposition party, took a major step on Tuesday toward ending their differences with the Conservatives over Canada's military mission in Afghanistan, which will be the subject of a confidence vote next month.

Unless Harper can strike a deal with the two smaller opposition parties, he must rely on the Liberals to vote for the budget, or at least abstain.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion says he will not make a decision until he has seen the document.

Some in his party are itching for an election, despite polls that show the most likely result would be another minority Conservative government.

"I haven't changed my view. I think the government needs to be brought down as soon as possible," said Liberal legislator Garth Turner.   Continued...