Conservative government on verge of collapse

Fri Nov 28, 2008 6:37pm EST
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By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's minority government teetered on the edge of collapse on Friday, less than two months after its re-election, as opposition parties talked of forming a coalition to replace the ruling Conservatives.

Both the Conservatives and the three opposition parties were engaged in high-stakes brinkmanship over the fiscal update that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty presented on Thursday.

The opposition said the update did not contain needed stimulus for an economy increasingly squeezed by the global downturn, but they were most angered by a planned end to direct public financing of political parties.

The official opposition Liberals prepared a motion declaring a lack of confidence in the government and expressing the opinion "that a viable alternative government can be formed within the present House of Commons."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- who won a strengthened minority in an October 14 election -- said the government would not allow the motion to be presented or voted on until December 8.

"While we have been working on the economy, the opposition has been working on a back room deal to overturn the results of the last election without seeking the consent of voters. They want to take power, not earn it," he told reporters.

If neither side blinks, the government will likely fall, and Canada would either head into another election or into some sort of coalition led by the Liberals. The other two opposition parties are the separatist Bloc Quebecois and the left-leaning New Democratic Party.

The Conservatives say it would be an outrage for the opposition to displace a government formed by a party that had won nearly half of Parliament's seats on October 14 and garnered much more popular support than any other.   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers a statement in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, November 28, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>