New bill seen getting opposition backing

Tue Nov 3, 2009 3:37pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The opposition New Democratic Party will most likely back a new bill on employment insurance, but is making no promises about long it will keep the minority Conservative government in power.

The legislation, announced Tuesday, will let self-employed opt in to the employment insurance system to get maternity, parental and sick benefits.

"We probably will support the bill," NDP spokesman Karl Belanger said.

His party, on the left of the political system, is currently keeping the Conservatives in power so that an earlier bill to expand employment insurance can pass.

But Belanger declined to say if that support would continue until Parliament approves the maternity benefits bill. "We are not offering any guarantee on anything regarding this bill at this point," he said.

The Conservatives have a solid lead over the opposition parties, but need support from at least one other party to avoid an early election. They were reelected in October 2008.

The largest opposition party, the Liberals, decided in September to stop backing the Conservatives. But since then -- some pollsters say because of that position -- they have fallen far behind the Conservatives in public support.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Janet Guttsman)