Canada PM will accept "any mandate" as NDP gains

Fri Apr 29, 2011 1:15pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday he will look to form a third minority Conservative government if he's denied a majority in Monday's general election, but he signaled little willingness to compromise with the opposition if that happens.

Harper has argued throughout the campaign that Canada's economic stability requires that the Conservatives win a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons. But a surprising surge by the left-leaning New Democratic Party has cast that goal in serious doubt.

Friday's remarks continued a sometimes mixed message from Harper as his campaign has seemingly struggled to switch from attacking the Conservatives' traditional rivals, the Liberals, to fighting the NDP, which usually trails in a distant third.

The Conservatives have ruled with two successive minority governments since 2006, requiring the support of at least one of the opposition parties to remain in power -- a position Harper says the economy can not longer tolerate.

Harper told a Montreal rally Friday he was optimistic the Conservatives would attain their goal, but party insiders have whispered privately that the NDP's newfound popularity has put a majority in serious doubt.

Asked how the Conservatives would keep a new minority government alive and ease fears in investment markets about Canada's political stability, Harper said he would not accept demands by the opposition that could hurt the economy.

"We are not prepared to do that," Harper told reporters at the start of a campaign bus tour between Montreal and Toronto, Canada's two largest cities.

"We will accept any mandate from the Canadian public, but my fear is that if we have a minority mandate the other parties will not accept it," he said.   Continued...

<p>Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper pauses during a campaign event in Montreal April 29, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>