Liberals resolute but election not certain

Wed Sep 2, 2009 5:36pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

SUDBURY, Ontario (Reuters) - Canada's Liberals insisted on Wednesday they want to bring down the minority Conservative government, even as a smaller opposition party offered the year-old government a tenuous lifeline.

"We're not in negotiations here," emboldened Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff told reporters at the end of a Liberal Party retreat in northern Ontario at which he decided to try to force what would be Canada's fourth election in 5-1/2 years.

Still, the small opposition New Democratic Party and Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper said they were willing to try to find common ground, though the Conservatives are not close ideologically to the left-leaning NDP. Neither held out high hopes.

"There's a difference between propping up the Conservatives and making a minority Parliament work," NDP 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."

NDP leader Jack Layton said after meeting Harper last week that his party would be the least likely to support the Conservatives, and it remained unclear what terms the NDP might set as conditions for backing the government. He will speak on Thursday.

The Liberals, the NDP and the separatist Bloc Quebecois would all have to join forces to bring down the government.

There was no immediate sign the Conservatives were talking with either of the smaller opposition parties but Harper, reelected last October with a strengthened mandate, left the door open.   Continued...