NDP not backing Conservatives

Tue Aug 25, 2009 5:41pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper failed on Tuesday to win support for his minority government from the New Democratic Party as political leaders mull whether to force a new federal election.

In what was always a long shot, the Conservative prime minister met with the NDP leader to discuss ways to avoid what would be Canada's second election in 13 months. But NDP leader Jack Layton offered the government no support.

"As I've said before, the NDP would be the least likely of the political parties to support the Conservatives in office, because we have very fundamental differences with the direction that they're taking, and as of today's meeting I can't say that I feel any optimism that they're going to change direction," Layton told reporters after meeting Harper.

An election call could come as early as late September or early October, if the main opposition Liberal Party decides to propose a motion of non-confidence. The Conservatives need support from at least one other party to stay in power.

Most recent polls give neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives a clear chance winning a new election, although a survey issued on Monday put the Conservatives 11 points ahead.

The Conservatives, who won a strengthened minority in an election last October, argue that Canada's economic recovery is too fragile to risk another election now.

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

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, told the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir in an interview published on Monday that an election would not create instability.   Continued...

<p>New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton gives his closing remarks for the national party convention at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, August 16, 2009. REUTERS/Michael Creagen</p>