Canada faces May election over budget rejection

Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:42pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer and Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian federal election looked inevitable on Tuesday after all three opposition parties said they would vote against the minority Conservative government's latest budget.

If they go ahead with that threat, or vote against the Conservatives on another big issue, the government will fall within the next week, paving the way for an early May election -- Canada's fourth federal vote in less than seven years.

An election campaign will pit Conservative assurances that only they can be trusted to manage an economy that is still emerging from recession against opposition charges of government sleaze and waste.

Polls point to Prime Minister Stephen Harper easily retaining power, although he may not win enough support to transform his minority right-of-center government into a majority one that cannot be easily defeated.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty -- who dismissed the idea of rewriting the budget to respond to opposition criticism -- had added several inducements to win the support of the left-leaning New Democrats, seen as the opposition party most likely to vote with the Conservatives.

But NDP leader Jack Layton refused to take the bait.

"We looked at this budget very carefully. We set out clearly where we wanted the budget to go and Mr Harper chose not to take us there," he said.

The Conservatives, who back low taxes and stress the need to cut the deficit, say Canadians don't want an election, a view that's also borne out in opinion polls.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (2nd R) shakes hands with Prime Minister Stephen Harper after delivering his budget as Minister of Industry Tony Clement (L) and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon (R) applaud in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 22, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>