Ignatieff holds crisis talks with PM

Tue Jun 16, 2009 3:54pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The leader of Canada's main opposition party held "productive" talks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday in a bid to defuse a political crisis threatening to topple the minority Conservative government.

Spokesmen for both sides said the talks had been productive, and further discussions would be held later in the day.

Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff said on Monday he would move to bring down the Conservatives on a budget vote on Friday unless Harper explained in detail how he planned to help Canadians survive the economic downturn.

Although Harper quickly delivered a largely defiant response, Ignatieff said he saw enough in the Prime Minister's words to indicate some progress had been made. Harper then suggested the two meet on Tuesday.

"We're gradually getting clearer answers and we made a little progress yesterday," Ignatieff told French-language broadcaster Radio-Canada before the talks started.

Canadians are showing little interest in what would be the country's fourth election in little over five years. A Harris-Decima poll for Canadian Press on Monday said only 14 percent of respondents wanted an election now.

Political observers largely agree that Ignatieff took too hard a line on Monday and is now seeking a way out.

Ignatieff, who like Harper insists he does not want an election now, says he is most concerned about the unemployment benefit system, which he demands be made more generous and more widely available.   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa June 15, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>