Stephen Harper challenges opposition to bring him down

Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:50pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper challenged the main opposition Liberal Party on Wednesday to defeat his minority government in Parliament and let Canadians decide who was best suited to run the country.

Harper's Conservatives won a fragile hold on power in January 2006 and have survived several confidence votes with support from the Liberals.

But the Liberals -- working with other opposition parties -- have used their combined majority in Parliament to water down or delay several important Conservative initiatives, much to Harper's frustration.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion often muses publicly about bringing down the Conservatives, only to change his mind on the grounds that Canadians do not want an election.

"Mr. Dion is threatening to bring the government down -- again -- but we've heard that same song for nearly two years ... always, when the time comes to stand and be counted, he always backs down," Harper said in a speech to Conservative Party members in the town of Levis, Quebec.

"Canadians deserve to have a Parliament that works ... so Mr. Dion must fish or cut bait. Either let the current Parliament work and let us get on with our mandate, or the voters themselves will decide," he said.

Dion said earlier this month he detected more public enthusiasm for a vote in the near future but declined to say when or whether he would move to defeat Harper.

Opinion polls show the most likely result of an election now would be another minority Conservative government.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during his speech at a barbecue in St-Agapit, July 30, 2008. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger</p>