Canada's opposition says not keen on 2010 election

Sat Dec 19, 2009 12:29pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - In a sharp change of position, the head of Canada's main opposition party said in an interview published on Saturday that he was not keen on trying to trigger an election next year.

The comments by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff mean it is likely the minority Conservative government -- which needs the support of opposition legislators to stay in power -- will be able to push through its budget early next year.

The Liberals were level in the polls with the Conservatives in early September but fell away sharply after Ignatieff said he would try to bring down the government on the grounds that it was mishandling the economy. Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused the Liberals of playing games during a crisis.

"Canadians did not want an election in 2009. I've heard that message 100 percent ... for Canadians it was a year of anguish and economic uncertainty," Ignatieff told the French-language La Presse newspaper.

Asked about an election in 2010, he replied: "I think Canadians are still worried about the economy. They keep telling us 'We've had enough elections. Do your work and leave us in peace'. I think that will continue in 2010."

The Liberals have since recovered some of the lost support but polls indicate that if an election were held now, the result would be a third consecutive Conservative minority government. The party won elections in January 2006 and October 2008.

No one in Harper's office was immediately available for comment. The prime minister was due to head back to Canada on Saturday from climate talks in Copenhagen.

Harper could try to trigger his own defeat over the budget -- expected in late February or early March -- by including policies unacceptable to the three opposition parties, who control a majority of seats in the House of Commons.   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff leaves a news conference in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 18, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>