Liberals won't prejudge budget, leader says

Mon Mar 1, 2010 1:52pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Michael Ignatieff, Canada's main opposition leader, said on Monday he would decide on Thursday whether to support the minority Conservative government in a confidence vote over the budget.

"That depends on what I see on Thursday," Ignatieff told reporters when asked whether he expected an election this spring.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will present a budget on Thursday and can only stay in power if at least one of the three opposition parties votes in favor of the package. A defeat would bring down the government and trigger an election.

Ignatieff said he needs to see measures to support the unemployed and a credible plan to reduce the record deficit in order to back Harper. But he has kept his demands vague and has shown a reluctance to engage in political brinkmanship or lay down an ultimatum that would raise the risk of an election.

Polls have shown that neither party would win a majority if an election were held now, though an Ekos poll last week showed the Conservatives have rebuilt a slight advantage over the Liberals.

Ignatieff has suggested in recent weeks that Canadians are not interested in an election this spring.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Frank McGurty)