OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Monday he was not looking for an election this fall and wanted instead to focus on the economy, which the minority Conservative government says is its main priority.
The last session of the House of Commons was particularly antagonistic and featured regular clashes between the government and legislators from the three opposition parties, who together have a majority of seats.
The rancor reached such depths that some political observers predict Harper might do what he did in September 2008 -- trigger an election on the grounds that Parliament was not working.
Harper told Reuters that “notwithstanding what was largely a dysfunctional session”, the government managed to push through important measures such as a budget law, refugee reforms and a Canada-Colombia free trade pact.
“People want this government to focus on the economy and that’s what we’re going to continue doing. So I‘m not looking to have an election in the fall and I don’t think that’s what Canadians are expecting us to do either,” he said in a wide-ranging interview.
Polls show that public support for both the Conservatives and the Liberals, the biggest opposition party, is well below levels needed to ensure a stable minority government, yet alone a majority one.
The Conservatives won a strengthened minority in the election of October 2008, but have gradually foundered amid allegations of scandal and overspending. The Liberals are in even worse shape and show little sign of advancing any time soon.
Harper made clear his lack of enthusiasm for an election was linked to his ability to continue working with Parliament on the economy.
“It continues to be my strong view that the Canadian people want us, want the government, want Parliament to focus on the economy. That’s what we’ve been doing,” he said.
“As long as we can get from Parliament what we need ... in terms of the economy, then I think it’s important that Parliament continue to sit, that Parliament continue to work. I don’t think people are looking for an election.”
The House of Commons broke for a three-month summer break last Thursday.
Reporting by David Ljunggren and Louise Egan; editing by Peter Galloway