Canada agrees concessions in bid to avoid election

Mon Mar 21, 2011 7:50pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's minority Conservative government has made a series of last-minute budget concessions in a bid to win enough opposition support to avert an early election, a government source revealed on Monday.

The government will present its budget on Tuesday and needs the backing of one of the three opposition parties to pass the document. If all three vote against, the Conservatives will fall, pushing Canada into its fourth election in seven years.

The source said the government would extend a program to pay people who had made their homes more energy-efficient and would also help doctors and nurses move to rural areas. Both steps touch on demands the left-leaning New Democratic Party has made as a price for supporting the budget.

"We have been clear we do not want an election. We are serious. We are going to put forward a budget that is in the best interests of all Canadians," the source told Reuters.

"Where the opposition have made reasonable suggestions, we have listened and it is clear that we have acted," said the source, who asked not to be identified.

The concessions mark a major change in attitude by the government, which as recently as a few days ago had been saying it could not meet many of the New Democrats' demands.

Polls show the Conservatives, beset by a series of ethical problems, are unlikely to gain a majority in an election now.

"We hope opposition members of parliament will say no to an unnecessary and opportunistic election," said the source.   Continued...