Conservatives land contempt but might survive

Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:32pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's minority Conservative government was held on Monday to be in contempt of Parliament but increasingly looked as if it might stave off a new election by reaching out to the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).

A special parliamentary committee declared the Conservative government to be in contempt for failing to provide enough information on the cost of its crime agenda.

The ruling could have been grist for a possible vote of non-confidence on Friday, but it was not clear that such a vote would succeed, in light of reported government concessions to the New Democrats.

The government, which has been in power since early 2006, needs the support of only one of the three opposition parties to stay in power.

It will face at least one and possibly two confidence showdowns on Friday and likely more such votes next week over its annual budget, which is to be unveiled on Tuesday.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp said the government planned to add C$400 million ($408 million) for home energy retrofits and money to encourage doctors and nurses to go to rural areas, both touching on demands the NDP has made as a price for supporting the budget.

The New Democrats sit on the left of the political spectrum where they have little in common with the Conservatives, but leader Jack Layton has always said he wants to make Parliament work.

He has presented Prime Minister Stephen Harper with four demands and seems resigned to not getting all of them.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper smiles while speaking at a luncheon in Brampton March 17, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>