Harper denies talk of pact with separatists

Fri May 1, 2009 3:02pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed reports on Friday that he was contemplating a deal with the separatist Bloc Quebecois to keep his minority Conservative government in power.

Speculation is mounting that the main opposition Liberals, who are riding high in the polls, could try to bring down the government later this year.

The Conservatives need the support of at least one opposition party to survive a confidence vote. Some newspapers and commentators are now raising the prospect of a deal with the Bloc, which wants independence for the province of Quebec.

"That is absolutely untrue ... The Bloc Quebecois stands for the break-up of this country. We will not govern this country in a pact or arrangement with the Bloc Quebecois," Harper said in the western province of Saskatchewan.

"I don't know where that (idea) is coming from but there is no contemplation of that, let alone the possibility of that," he told a televised news conference.

Talk of a possible deal grew this week after Conservative legislators unexpectedly backed a Parliamentary motion by the Bloc on taxes in Quebec. The predominantly French-speaking province accounts for 75 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.

Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe deflected talk of a deal on Thursday, saying instead that he wanted support for a proposed stimulus bill. The Bloc kept the Conservatives in power on several crucial votes in 2006 and 2007.

Even the speculation of an arrangement with the Bloc reflects how far Harper's fortunes have fallen since the Conservatives won a strengthened minority in last October's election, handing the Liberals a crushing defeat.   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at a news conference in Toronto, April 30, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>