Canada election call all but certain next week

Fri Aug 29, 2008 6:12pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper seemed almost certain on Friday to call a general election next week to decide who will guide Canada through a rough economic patch, and an aide pointed to October14 as a likely date.

The Conservative leader, who has headed one of the longest minority governments in Canadian history, sees September 2-7 as the most likely window to call for a vote, the aide said.

Harper is formally asking whether any of the three opposition parties will cooperate with him through the autumn, but his party has already booked a campaign plane, launched television ads and outlined its broad themes.

"I think his plan is made. He wants an election. Period," Gilles Duceppe, leader of the separatist opposition Bloc Quebecois, told reporters after meeting Harper.

Harper, whose government won power in January 2006, will meet Jack Layton, leader of the leftist New Democratic Party, on Saturday though Layton has called the exercise a charade.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion has said he is available to meet only on September 9.

The prime minister did not, under such circumstances, feel obliged to wait for a meeting with Dion to call an election, said the official, who did not want to be identified.

Harper's government needs the support of at least one opposition party to get bills passed, and he has complained about legislation being stalled in the Liberal-dominated Senate and obstructed in the House of Commons, principally by Dion.   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper sits in the cockpit of a CF-18 Canadian Armed Forces fighter jet during his Canadian Western Arctic tour in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, August 28, 2008. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>