Canada PM to defend budget as election looms

Wed Mar 23, 2011 9:29am EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's prime minister will defend his government's budget on Wednesday in the face of opposition promises to vote it down, something that would trigger the fall of the government and a spring election.

Canada's three opposition parties said on Tuesday they would not support the budget, which promises to rein in a deficit created by tax cuts and billions of dollars of spending to pull Canada out of recession.

If all three parties vote against the budget, the minority Conservative government falls, and an election campaign will start immediately.

Polls show Prime Minister Stephen Harper would easily retain power in an election, although he may not win enough support to win a majority.

Harper, who insists Canadians do not want an election, will speak to reporters at 11:30 a.m. (1530 GMT). An aide said he would not announce plans to seek the dissolution of Parliament -- an option that would deny the opposition a chance to lambast his government in Parliamentary debates on the budget or on a motion of non-confidence.

The opposition could also bring Harper down in other votes on Friday that are unrelated to the budget.

The main opposition Liberals will decide by noon whether to present a motion on Friday declaring non-confidence in the government. Legislators will also vote on a routine financing bill on Friday.

The budget promised to shrink the federal deficit by a quarter this year and it included small, targeted measures for low-income seniors, the unemployed and businesses.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 22, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>