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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is likely to head into a general election soon unless the minority Conservative government wins co-operation from at least one opposition party, an aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday.
Harper, whose government was elected in January 2006, will try to meet soon with the heads of the three opposition parties to find out if any sees room for letting the government proceed with its agenda this autumn, the aide said.
"If there is no consensus, I think it leads us on a path of going to the polls in the near future," the aide said. "If we're all agreed we're going to the polls, then why wait another two months before getting the nation's business done?"
Harper has governed so far mainly with the tacit support of the main opposition Liberal Party but complains of what he says is obstructionism.
Liberal leader Stephane Dion has said he is willing to meet Harper but he appeared in no hurry to speed things along.
"What's the rush?" asked Dion spokesman Mark Dunn. "Canadians elected a minority government, not a majority. Harper is manufacturing a crisis about Parliament not working."
Harper now appears ready to have Parliament dissolved if necessary before its scheduled September 15 return from its summer recess, with a general election possible before the November 4 presidential election in the United States.
"We're at a pretty critical time. There are economic challenges on the horizon," the government aide said, complaining that working in the current Parliament was like swimming in molasses.
"An election would clear the air and give a government -- ours or a Liberal government -- some open waters to swim in."
As of now the most likely result would be another minority government, with polls on average showing the Conservatives slightly ahead of the Liberals.
Dion spokesman Dunn said many bills had been passed in the current Parliament and only three of 25 committees had been gummed up -- and he blamed that on "Conservative trickery."
The Harper aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the issue was not the government's past accomplishments but its prospects.
"Increasingly it takes more and more time to get less and less done. It's becoming increasingly a more toxic environment politically," he said.
By law, Canadian campaigns must be at least 36 days long and elections are usually on a Monday. If Parliament were dissolved on September 14, for example, that would make an election likely on October 20.
If an election is held, Dion will run on a proposal to impose a carbon tax to combat climate change, offset with income tax cuts and help for the poor.
Harper opposes that, saying it is important to deal with the environment but in a way that does not send the economy into a tailspin.
Editing by Peter Galloway; Editing by Peter Galloway