Canadian government to face confidence tests

Mon Nov 17, 2008 4:39pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's Conservative government will face at least one confidence test as the new parliamentary session begins but it said on Monday it would focus on economic measures on which it hopes to find broad agreement.

It will unveil the general thrust of its plans for the new Parliament on Wednesday in the Speech from the Throne, with ceremonies beginning at 1:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) and the speech being read at 2 p.m.

Most of the speech will address the economic crisis, making only passing reference to what the government has determined to be secondary portfolios such as its hot-button pledge to get tougher on crime.

"We can do more than one thing at once but it's important that you set priorities ... especially in a minority Parliament," a senior aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters on condition he not be identified.

"Canadians want their government not squabbling about secondary issues. I think they want them finding consensus and agreement on the large issues around the economy."

The Conservatives retained power with a strengthened minority in the October 14 election but must still rely on support from one of the three opposition parties.

The House of Commons must eventually endorse the speech or the government will fall and a new election would likely then have to be called.

In practice, the opposition usually lets the speech pass so soon after an election, but the remote possibility exists that the government could lose such a vote.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (C) holds a news conference with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (R) at the Canadian Embassy after the G20 Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy in Washington, November 15, 2008. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst</p>