Opposition leader still coy on election

Wed Jul 23, 2008 1:04pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians are getting more accepting of the idea of a federal election, opposition leader Stephane Dion said on Wednesday, but he refused to suggest he was ready to topple the minority Conservative government any time soon.

"We've seen in the winter and the spring more and more interest in federal politics and more and more appetite for an election," the Liberal leader told reporters at a campaign-style "town hall" gathering in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata.

"So we'll see what will happen in the coming months."

The Conservatives have been in power since February 2006 with Prime Minister Stephen Harper heading what is now the fourth-longest minority government in Canada's history. But Dion was ambivalent on whether to trigger a general election this autumn by defeating the government in a confidence


Perhaps the most closely watched indicator will be how the parties do in three byelections this fall, which Harper is expected to call this week to fill vacancies in the House of Commons.

Currently, the two main parties are neck and neck in opinion polls. So, if the Liberals do well, Dion will likely be encouraged by the hawks in his party to pull the plug on the Conservatives. If the Liberals are rebuffed, it will make him more hesitant.

Two byelection will be held in Quebec, with one in Ontario, likely in early or mid-September.   Continued...