September 1, 2008 / 12:07 AM / 9 years ago

Canada PM to meet rival as election looms

3 Min Read

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has scheduled a meeting with opposition leader Stephane Dion for Monday, their offices said, in a further sign a general election could be called within days.

Harper had asked to meet the leaders of the three major opposition parties to determine if they would work with his minority Conservative government through the autumn.

He met with two of the leaders but Liberal Party leader Dion said previously he would not be able to meet until September 9.

The government needs the support of at least one opposition party to get bills passed.

On Sunday, Dion did not appear to be in the mood for compromise.

"The prime minister wants to see if we have common ground. He has no vision to address the climate change crisis, has no plan to reinvigorate the Canadian economy, which is teetering on the brink of a recession," he said in a statement.

Jack Layton, head of the leftist New Democratic Party, and Gilles Duceppe, leader of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, both came away from meetings with Harper in recent days convinced the prime minister was determined to go to the polls.

A key adviser to Harper has pointed to October 14 as a likely date for a general election.

Harper and Dion will meet at 4 p.m. EDT on Monday, the Labour Day holiday in Canada.

Dion said he would also ask Harper why he looked set to break a promise to hold to a fixed date for elections.

In 2006, Harper pushed through legislation setting a fixed election date of October 19, 2009, with the caveat that nothing prevented the dissolution of Parliament before then.

Harper, whose party won the most seats in the January 2006 election but lacks a parliamentary majority, has complained that legislation is being stalled in the Liberal-dominated Senate and obstructed in the House of Commons, mainly by Dion.

The prime minister has said the political air needs to be cleared to allow the government to deal with a slowing economy and other issues.

Instead of talking about an election, Harper should focus on issues such Canada's "food safety crisis," Dion said.

Seventeen deaths, confirmed or suspected, have been associated with an outbreak of listeriosis food poisoning linked to tainted meat produced by Maple Leaf Foods, Canada's biggest meat processor.

Also, one person has died in the province of Quebec from salmonella poisoning traced to tainted cheese.

Political analysts have said the most likely outcome of an election is another minority government.

An Ipsos Reid poll published on Saturday found 33 percent support for the Conservatives and 31 percent for the Liberals, within the poll's 3-point margin of error.

The NDP had the support of 16 percent of voters in the Ipsos Reid poll, with 10 percent supporting the Green Party.

Reporting by Ted Kerr; Editing by Peter Cooney

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