Canada's government survives to fight another day

Fri Sep 18, 2009 11:16am EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's minority Conservative government easily survived a budget vote on Friday, as expected, but it now needs to find a way of dealing with a more threatening non-confidence motion expected early next month.

Legislators voted 224-74 to approve a routine motion authorizing budget spending. Had the government lost the vote, Canada would have been tipped into its second election in a year and the fourth in just over five years.

Two opposition parties -- the left-leaning New Democrats and the separatist Bloc Quebecois -- had said beforehand they would not bring down the Conservatives over the budget vote.

That still leaves the Conservatives facing a non-confidence motion that the main opposition Liberals say they will present soon because they have lost confidence in the government's handling of the economy.

Polls show the Conservatives would most likely gain another minority if an election were held now. They won minorities in January 2006 and October 2008.

The Conservative government needs the backing of at least one opposition party to stay in power and somewhat bizarrely its best bet right now is the New Democratic Party, normally among Prime Minister Stephen Harper's toughest critics.

NDP leader Jack Layton, his party dropping in the polls, welcomed draft legislation this week that would boost benefits for the unemployed and he hinted his party would keep the Conservatives in power until the measure was approved by Parliament.

A final vote on the extended jobless benefits would come well after the Liberals' proposed non-confidence motion, suggesting the New Democrats could continue keep the government alive for now.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 15, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>