Canada Liberals eye election, promise factory aid

Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:38am EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's opposition Liberals promised on Friday to boost aid to the manufacturing sector if elected, and asserted their chances of displacing Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper have improved.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion announced that if elected his government would set up a C$1 billion ($970 million) fund to support major investments in manufacturing and research and development.

He also said he would try to go faster than Harper's government in bringing corporate tax rates down.

"If fiscal resources permit, I would accelerate the implementation of corporate tax cuts," he said in the prepared text of a speech he was giving in the steel town of Hamilton, Ontario.

Dion has been keeping Harper, elected with a minority in January 2006, in power by abstaining on key confidence votes but in a La Presse newspaper interview published on Friday he left open the possibility of voting against the next budget, expected in the first half of March or possibly late February.

"We cannot rule out the possibility of voting against the budget. The context has changed from the autumn. I'm not saying there necessarily have to be elections," La Presse quoted him as saying.

"I am saying that even if people don't want elections they increasingly expect they will take place. Also, we think our chances of winning are bigger now because people are already listening."

Dion's party faced ridicule for abstaining during the autumn session but opinion remains divided about triggering an election given that most polls show another minority Conservative government could well be elected.   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Stephane Dion speaks during a news conference in Ottawa January 9, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>