Prospects for early Canada election appear to fade

Mon Sep 14, 2009 4:58pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prospects for an early Canadian election appeared to fade on Monday after the opposition New Democrats cautiously welcomed government proposals for new jobless benefits.

That sets the scene for the unusual possibility that the left-wing New Democrats might keep the minority Conservative government in power, even though the two parties differ on virtually everything.

"The announcement (on benefits) today appears to be a step in the right direction. There is much more that needs to be done as well," party leader Jack Layton told reporters.

"But make no mistake about it, we have no intention of giving this government a blank check," he said.

The Conservative government, elected last October, needs the backing of at least one of the three opposition parties in Parliament to stay in power.

The Liberals, Canada's largest opposition party, have played that role so far. But the party said earlier this month it would try to bring the government as early as possible, raising the prospect of a November election if other opposition parties back a Liberal non-confidence motion.

The Conservatives' proposal would make jobless benefits more generous, potentially meeting a key demand from the NDP, which has been a strong critic of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Aides said Layton would give a definitive reaction in the next two days. If the NDP backs the government, the party would then vote against the Liberal non-confidence motion.   Continued...

<p>A view of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 13, 2009. Parliamentarians will return from their summer break on September 14. REUTERS/Blair Gable</p>