August 14, 2008 / 5:38 PM / 9 years ago

Harper suggests he may force election

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during his speech at a barbecue in St-Agapit, July 30, 2008. An increasingly frustrated Harper was quoted on Thursday as suggesting he may have to force the dissolution of Parliament and trigger an election. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger</p>

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Increasingly expressing frustration, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggested on Thursday he may have to force the dissolution of Parliament and trigger an election.

“Quite frankly, I‘m going to have to make a judgment in the next little while as to whether or not this Parliament can function productively,” Harper told reporters while touring the Atlantic province of Newfoundland.

Harper heads a minority Conservative government that must rely on the support of at least one of the three opposition parties to get bills passed.

He complained about legislation being stalled in the Liberal-dominated Senate and obstructed in the House of Commons, principally by Liberal leader Stephane Dion.

“Two of the three opposition parties don’t support the government and say we should be defeated. Mr. Dion says he doesn’t support the government but won’t say, you know, whether he will defeat us or not,” Harper said.

“I don’t think that’s a tenable situation.”

Harper, whose Conservatives defeated the governing Liberals in the January 2006 election, repeated a dare to Dion, first delivered last month, to bring down the government or else let bills pass.

“The choice is either to let this government govern, or to let the people decide. I am telling Mr. Dion he should decide for good, and soon,” Harper said in the prepared text of remarks to Conservative supporters later in New Brunswick.

“Canada needs the government to be able to move forward to address the challenges of our day -- a troubled economy, the race to secure Arctic resources, environmental degradation, and geopolitical instability in more places than I care to name.”

Polls point to another minority government if an election were held today. Support for the two main parties is roughly equal, with some polls showing the Conservatives in the lead while others have the Liberals ahead.

The Conservatives are better organized and better financed than the Liberals, though once an election is called the political parties face similar spending limits.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Peter Galloway and Jeffrey Jones

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