Harper meets with opposition amid election talk

Tue Aug 25, 2009 3:20pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was meeting with the head of an opposition party on Tuesday afternoon as political leaders mulled whether to risk forcing an early election in coming months.

Harper issued the invitation to Jack Layton, leader of the small New Democratic Party (NDP), after Layton suggested last month that they talk before Parliament returns from its summer break.

The governing Conservative Party has only a minority of seats in the House of Commons and needs the support of one of the three opposition parties to stay in power.

The Conservatives are sending out the message that the country's economic recovery is too fragile to risk holding another election campaign and possibly changing the government so soon after last October's vote.

"We're hearing the Canadian public telling us this is a very dangerous time to have an election," Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas said.

The head of the largest opposition party, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, told the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir in an interview published on Monday that an election at this point would not create any instability.

"We could have an election without endangering anything at all. You could even say it would be good for the country, but that's another story," Ignatieff said.

However, he added that he was still mulling whether to try to pull the plug on the government, asking himself whether the Liberal Party was ready, whether this would be in the national interest, and whether it was possible to continue working with the Conservatives.   Continued...

<p>Protestors follow New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton as he arrives at the Langevin Block to meet with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in Ottawa August 25, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>