Liberals deny budget election plan

Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:02pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The leader of Canada's opposition Liberals denied a newspaper report on Thursday that said he planned to bring down the minority Conservative government over its budget later this month.

The budget will be presented on February 26 and must survive three confidence votes in Parliament before it can be adopted. The Conservatives, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, need support from at least one of the three opposition parties for the budget to pass.

Although the Liberals trail the Conservatives in the polls, insiders say leader Stephane Dion is keen to bring down the government after just over two years in power.

Dion, under pressure from some legislators for keeping the Conservatives in power last year in a series of confidence votes, dismissed a report in La Presse newspaper that said he had decided the time was right to try to defeat Harper.

Asked whether he had already taken a decision, Dion replied: "No, because I have not seen the budget yet."

Other Liberals are urging more caution, on the grounds that the party is not ready to fight an election now. Voters are unenthusiastic about Dion, who became leader in December 2006, and officials say they are still looking for a campaign plane.

"We have to be ready (for an election) at any time and we will choose our moment," Dion told reporters, adding that he would listen to the opinion of his colleagues before concluding what to do over the budget.

If the Liberals did bring down the Conservatives in early March, that would set the date for an election on April 14 -- the third federal vote in less than four years.   Continued...