Early election seen as almost inevitable

Tue Sep 8, 2009 5:55pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - An early Canadian election is all but inevitable, the head of the opposition Bloc Quebecois said on Tuesday, despite the fact that the ruling Conservative Party has taken a lead in opinion polls.

"Chances of an election are extremely high," Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe told reporters after a meeting of his separatist party's caucus in Quebec City.

Two new polls suggest the Conservatives may have begun to break out of the tie they had maintained with the main opposition Liberal Party throughout the summer.

A Nanos survey to be released on Wednesday had the Conservatives leading by 4 percentage points, while a Strategic Counsel poll released on Tuesday had them up by 5 points.

To bring down the minority Conservative government would require all three opposition parties teaming up on a non-confidence vote.

The Liberals decided last week they would vote to topple the Conservatives at the first opportunity. The Conservatives, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, won last October's general election with a strengthened minority, but still need the support of at least one opposition party in the House of Commons to remain in power.

If either the Bloc or the leftist New Democratic Party decides to work with the Conservatives, an election would be avoided. While both the Bloc and the NDP have expressed openness to working with Harper, no party appears willing to be the first to reach out.

"The ball is Harper's court. So far he has kept it," NDP spokesman Karl Belanger said.   Continued...

<p>Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at the opening ceremonies for the World Skills Competition in Calgary, September 1, 2009. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>