Harper makes risky appeal for majority

Thu Sep 10, 2009 1:48pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made a rare appeal to be given a majority of seats in Parliament, raising an idea that has hurt him in the past but which he may try to turn to his advantage now.

Saying that a majority is within reach, he made the appeal to a Conservative gathering last week just as Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff announced his party would try to bring down the minority Conservative government and force a new election.

A student videotaped Harper's speech and handed it to the Liberals, which were distributing copies to the media on Thursday.

Harper referred to an unpopular attempt in December by the three opposition parties -- the Liberals, the left-leaning New Democrats and the separatist Bloc Quebecois -- to defeat the Conservatives and replace them with a coalition government.

"They will deny this till they're blue in the face in an election campaign, but I guarantee it -- if we do not win a majority, this country will have a Liberal government propped up by the socialists and the separatists," Harper said in his speech.

Recent opinion polls show that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals have strong enough support to win a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons. The Conservatives won last October's election with a strengthened minority, but still must rely on the support of at least one opposition party to remain in power.

However, four polls released this week showed the Conservatives opening up a gap of 3 to 5 percentage points over the Liberals, but remaining several points shy of what they would likely need to form a majority government.

An Ekos automated telephone poll, released by CBC television on Thursday, showed the Liberals suddenly gave ground to the Conservatives when Ignatieff said on September 1 the Liberals would present a non-confidence motion in an effort to defeat the government.   Continued...

<p>Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers questions 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>