Opposition fuels talk of early election

Mon Mar 14, 2011 4:08pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's minority Conservative government came under attack from two opposition parties on Monday over its ethical problems, increasing speculation that the country is heading for an early election.

The Conservatives, who have had five largely trouble-free years in office under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, are now stumbling from one mishap to another.

The opposition Liberals and New Democrats regularly accuse Harper of abuse of power and blast the government's spending policies, leading one polling firm to speculate on Monday that Canada was on the brink of a general election.

Although polls show the Conservatives would easily win a fresh election -- likely with another minority -- opposition legislators clearly feel confident they can benefit from missteps by a government that came to power in early 2006 promising to clean up politics.

The Conservatives need the support of at least one opposition party to pass the budget, which will be presented on March 22. If all three opposition parties vote against it, the government will be defeated and an election will be called, possibly for early May.

Last week, House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken rebuked the government for refusing to say how much it would spend on prisons. He also condemned a Conservative minister for misleading Parliament.

The main opposition Liberal Party, which has already made it clear it will vote against the budget, said Harper had lost his moral compass.

"This was the guy who came into ... town on a horse called Accountability. Unfortunately, he put the horse down," senior Liberal legislator David McGuinty told reporters on Monday.   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff waves to the crowd before his speech to the members of the Chamber of Commerce at the Chateau Laurier in Quebec City March 14, 2011. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger</p>