Despite deadlock, opposition rattles swords

Thu Jul 30, 2009 3:41pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian opposition leader Michael Ignatieff has reopened the debate on bringing the government down, even as a new opinion poll on Thursday gave him at best a limited chance of success.

Ignatieff's Liberals have been out of power since early 2006 and internal pressure is building on him to take on Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose Conservatives hold only a minority of seats in the House of Commons and must rely on other parties to govern.

Last month Ignatieff threatened to introduce a non-confidence motion unless the government overhauled the unemployment benefits system. He quickly backed down, agreeing merely to set up a joint panel to examine the Employment Insurance program.

That panel will not report back until September but Ignatieff -- who complains Ottawa is not doing enough to help Canadians deal with the economic crisis -- reverted to his hard-line stance on Wednesday.

"I have always tried to work with the government, trying to put the country first, but it's getting tougher and tougher," he told CTV television.

Asked whether he would introduce a non-confidence motion when Parliament reconvened in September, he said that was "not an unreasonable extrapolation".

If all three opposition parties backed the motion, the government would fall, and Canadians would head into their fourth election in just over five years.

Steve Patten, a political scientist at the University of Alberta, said Ignatieff needs to show he could trigger an election if necessary, while also demonstrating he could make Parliament work.   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff delivers a speech at the Alberta Liberal Stampede breakfast during the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, July 4, 2009. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>