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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's top opposition leader said on Wednesday that the country needs an election over next week's budget "like a hole in the head" -- the latest sign that he will keep the minority Conservative government in power.
If the opposition Liberals vote against the Jan 27 budget, the government will almost certainly be defeated. That could trigger an election at the end of February or the start of March.
"We need an election in February like a hole in the head. It is not the preferred choice of Canadians. We're in a recession (and) Canadians all know that an election is expensive," Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff told a televised news conference in Montreal.
Ignatieff told Reuters on Tuesday that he was quite prepared to vote against the budget if he felt it could not tackle the growing effects of the financial crisis. He also said he was trying to calm political tempers.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs the support of the Liberals to back the budget, given that the two other opposition parties in Parliament have already made clear they will vote against it.
The government infuriated opposition parties late last November by issuing a financial update that predicted the country could stay in surplus over the next five years as long as it did not embark on measures to stimulate the economy.
A wide array of economists dismissed the document as being totally unrealistic. Six weeks later Finance Minister Jim Flaherty conceded the budget would be in deficit before any stimulatory measures.
"Will he (Harper) give us a budget which corresponds to the economic situation? He failed the first time. He has a last chance," Ignatieff.
"It's up to him to make good decisions and it's up to me to judge -- in the name of Canadians -- if he has shown good judgment."
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway