Canada opposition signs deal to defeat government

Mon Dec 1, 2008 6:46pm EST
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By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The leaders of Canada's three opposition parties on Monday signed a historic deal to bring down the minority Conservative government and then form a coalition government of their own.

The Liberals, New Democrats and separatist Bloc Quebecois say the Conservatives of Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- who won a strengthened minority in an Oct 14 election -- are not doing enough to help Canadians cope with the worsening financial crisis.

One of Harper's ministers called the deal "a coup d'etat" and suggested the government could temporarily shut down Parliament in response. Another minister said the country was in "a very, very serious situation."

In a scene unprecedented in Canadian political history, the Liberals and New Democrats sat down in one of Parliament's most stately rooms and signed a formal coalition deal.

The two parties, vowing to work together until June 30, 2011, will split cabinet posts. The Bloc signed an agreement promising to back a coalition government for at least 18 months.

A confidence vote has been set for next Monday. The proposed coalition government would be the first of its kind in modern Canadian history.

"We're seeing a sad spectacle from Stephen Harper's government. ... (It) has shown it has no plan, no competence and no will to face up to the crisis," Liberal leader Stephane Dion said at a news conference after the signing.

"The opposition parties have decided it is time to take action. ... We're ready to form a new government."   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Stephane Dion looks on as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 1, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>