Harper defends budget, Liberals target election

Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:38pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sounded a likely theme for a looming election on Wednesday, accusing opposition parties of threatening the economy by sending Canadians to the polls over the government's budget.

But the main opposition Liberals said they will try to bring the Conservative government down in a vote on Friday on a non-budget issue, signaling they will push recent ethics scandals as an early campaign theme.

"We have the responsibility to say clearly and unequivocally that this is a government that has lost the confidence of the House of Commons, it is a government that has lost the confidence of Canadians," Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff told reporters.

The Conservative government's budget, presented on Tuesday, was immediately rejected by the opposition parties - setting the stage for a spring election.

"Our economy is not a political game. The global recovery is still fragile," Harper told reporters in Ottawa, accusing the opposition parties of wanting to trigger "a needless election".

If all three parties were to vote against the budget, the minority Conservative government would fall 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.

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>