PM says won't provoke election in early 2011

Fri Dec 17, 2010 7:04pm EST
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The government will not try to provoke an election in 2011 by including measures in the budget that the opposition cannot support, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

Many political observers expect the three opposition parties to join forces to bring down the Conservatives over the budget early next year.

In an interview with CTV News broadcast on Friday, Harper said an election could jeopardize the patchy economic recovery.

"I'm not going to call an election and we're not bringing forward some kind of poison pill to provoke an election," he said.

"We're in a fragile global recovery. Canada is in a very good position for the long term but we need to stay focused on that and not screw around with a bunch of political games."

With a minority of seats in the House of Commons, the Conservatives need the support of at least some opposition legislators to survive confidence measures such as budgets.

Harper said he would make minor changes to his cabinet early in 2011 to resolve a gap left by the resignation in November of his environment minister, Jim Prentice.

He did not say whether Finance Minister Jim Flaherty would stay in his post, but he said the changes "won't be extensive," suggesting a major overhaul was not in the plans.

The next federal budget will commit to eliminating the deficit by 2015-16 through disciplined spending, without resorting to wholesale cuts to key programs like health care or education, Harper said. Budgets are usually presented in February or March.

"We don't need to have deep slash and burn ... It's not a matter of dramatic, draconian cuts but it will be a matter of discipline over some period," Harper said.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Peter Galloway)

 
<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 16, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>