OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's opposition Liberal Party, badly defeated in an election last week, vowed on Thursday to pressure the Conservative government over its handling of the economic crisis.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised during the campaign to keep the budget in surplus but is now much more cautious about whether Ottawa can stay out of deficit next year.
"We have some doubts about his ability to handle that (the crisis) ... so we'll make sure we're there with suggestions and to keep the government accountable in these tough economic times," said Liberal leader Stephane Dion.
Dion, who will step down next year once a new Liberal leader has been chosen, told reporters he would work with other opposition parties and said the Liberals would be responsible.
Although there has been talk that opposition parties could bring down the minority Conservative government over their budget next year, the Liberals are very short of money and would find it hard to fight another election campaign so soon.
The party, which by Dion's own admission is in financial crisis, must now find money for the leadership race. The new leader is expected to be chosen in the first half of next year.
Dion was strongly criticized from both inside and outside his party for running a poor election campaign.
The Liberals met as a group for the first time since the election in Ottawa on Thursday and legislators said the gathering was friendly and constructive. Dion said there had not been "an inch of defeatism" during the session.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson