VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The head of Canada’s opposition New Democrats expressed doubt on Sunday that the country will be able to avoid an election over a budget set to be unveiled by the Conservative government.
The minority government will need at least one of the opposition parties to support the budget and avoid calling a spring election, and the New Democratic Party is viewed as the party most likely to do that.
The left-leaning NDP wants the budget to eliminate the federal sales tax on home heating fuel and boost payments to low-income seniors and strengthen the Canada Pension Plan.
The budget will be announced in Ottawa on March 22.
New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month, but he said the Conservatives have given no indication since then that the New Democrat’s requests will be heeded.
“We just don’t see any signs that there is much of a willingness there by Mr. Harper, unfortunately,” Layton told CTV’s Question Period program on Sunday.
“I assume if he was going to put in what we asked for he would have let us know,” Layton said.
The prime minister says he does not want to force an election with the budget, but the Conservatives have been running campaign-style attack ads for weeks against the main opposition Liberals.
The Liberal and Bloc Quebecois parties have both said they expect to vote against the budget.
Adding to the campaign speculation was Saturday’s surprise announcement by two members of Harper’s cabinet, Treasury Board President Stockwell Day and Transport Minister Chuck Strahl, that they will not seek re-election.
The Conservatives were elected as a minority government in 2006, and won a slightly stronger minority in 2008.
Polls indicate the Conservatives have a steady lead over the other parties, but are just short of the support needed to win a majority government that will not need opposition support to pass major legislation.
The government has been hit in recent days by several controversies, including a report by Parliament’s budget watchdog that plans to modernize Canada’s air force will cost billions more than had been reported.
Reporting Allan Dowd; editing by Todd Eastham