Canada PM's office pushes election, Liberals demur

Fri Aug 22, 2008 5:08pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

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.   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers a speech to Conservative Party supporters at the Croatian Parish Park in Mississauga, August 18, 2008. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese</p>