Harper might trigger election this year

Tue Aug 19, 2008 4:39pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday he would decide in coming weeks whether an election is needed this year to give a new mandate to a Parliament that he has increasingly described as dysfunctional.

The head of the Liberal Party, Stephane Dion, also said he was considering pulling the plug on the minority Conservative government, but remained coy on whether he would do so this year, saying timing was key.

And one poll suggested that after 2-1/2 years, much longer than the normal Canadian minority government, voters are becoming more eager for an election.

For most of his mandate so far, Harper has said he hoped to govern until the fixed election date of October 19, 2009, but he has lately expressed growing frustration with what he calls Liberal obstruction.

"What I will have to decide over the next few weeks is whether or not we can have a productive fall session of Parliament, or whether in fact the government -- a government -- needs a new mandate," Harper told reporters.

The Conservatives won the last general election in January 2006 with only a minority of seats in the House of Commons, meaning they must rely on the support of at least one opposition party to govern.

Polls put the Conservatives close to the Liberals in public support, and Harper allowed that the most likely result of a new vote would be another minority government.

"I think polls do indicate that the next election in all likelihood would be a minority, one way or the other," Harper said during a funding announcement in Hamilton, Ontario.   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper (R) shakes hands with Conservative Party supporters after his speech at the Croatian Parish Park in Mississauga, August 18, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>