NDP hints it could offer lifeline to PM

Wed Sep 2, 2009 11:53am EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's left-leaning opposition New Democrats signaled on Wednesday they might be ready to keep the minority Conservative government in power.

The main opposition Liberals say they will present a motion of non-confidence in the government later this month. For it to succeed, all three opposition parties must vote in favor.

"There's a difference between propping up the Conservatives and making a minority Parliament work," New Democratic Party national director Brad Lavigne told CTV television.

"We want to make Parliament work. We're willing to obviously look at issues as they arise. We're not going to predict how we'll vote on things we haven't seen."

The remarks represent a significant shift for the party, which has consistently criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper since he came to power in early 2006.

If the New Democrats do decide to talk to Harper about a deal, they would most likely press demands for the system of jobless benefits to be made more generous. Harper has so far strongly resisted that idea.

In 2005, the New Democrats kept the then Liberal minority government in power in return for a promise by Ottawa to spend extra billions on social issues.

"If the New Democrats can exercise (their) clout in Parliament we'll do so. But if there's nothing there for the New Democrats to support, then we would vote accordingly," Lavigne said.

Polls indicate the party could lose some of its seats in Parliament to the Liberals, who performed very poorly in an October 2008 election but have since bounced back.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)

<p>Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper smiles after he announced that Calgary will host the Inter-American Development Bank meeting in 2011 at a news conference in Calgary September 1, 2009. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>