* C$ pares gains to $1.0221
* Bond prices slide as risk appetite gains
* Canada government hit with formal contempt charge
* Budget could decide fate of government (Updates to midafternoon)
TORONTO, March 21 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar pared gains against the U.S. currency early on Monday afternoon after a special parliamentary committee declared Canada's minority government to be in contempt, which the market saw as a possible election trigger.
The committee, however, stopped short of trying to bring down the governing Conservatives over the contempt finding. It ruled the government had wrongly withheld information about the cost of a program to increase the number of prison cells. [ID:nN2129965]
"You're getting all these things that are lining up to be potential Canadian dollar negatives. Here's the first one," said John Curran, senior vice president at CanadianForex.
The Canadian dollar fell about 30 ticks to as low as C$0.98 as the minority Conservative government looks set to face at least two parliamentary confidence votes this week and the chances of it surviving beyond Friday are uncertain at best.
A second risk lies with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget, due on Tuesday at 4 p.m. (2000 GMT). It is likely to show that Ottawa is cutting its deficit and may contain a sprinkling of targeted measures to bolster economic recovery. [ID:nN16271484]
Still, the currency was still up from Friday's close, rebounding from last week's sell-off against its U.S. counterpart, bolstered by firm commodity prices and developments in strife-torn Libya and quake-stricken Japan.
At 2:05 p.m. (1805 GMT), the Canadian currencywas at C$0.9784 to the U.S. dollar, or $1.0221, up from Friday's North American finish of C$0.9861 to the U.S. dollar, or $1.0141. Earlier, it had risen as high as C$0.9750 to the U.S. dollar, or $1.0256, it highest point in almost a week.
Oil, a key driver for the commodity-linked Canadian dollar, rose following a wave of United Nations-mandated airstrikes on Libya and as unrest in the Middle East fueled worries about the region's oil supply. For more see [O/R] and [ID:nLDE72J0RL].
Concerns about a nuclear power station crisis in Japan eased somewhat, lifting market sentiment.
"Canada is doing well overall but these recent events may provide some uncertainty and weaken off Canada in the medium term," Curran said. "Longer term, Canada should outperform. We may just need to go through a few bumps in the road beforehand."
Canadian bond prices fell across the curve, in step with U.S. Treasury prices, which dipped as risk appetite improved over progress in Japan's nuclear crisis and hope that intervention in Libya could help ease tensions. [US/]
Investors also shifted back into stock markets.
The interest rate-sensitive two-year bonddropped 12 Canadian cents to yield 1.668 percent, while the 10-year bond slipped 19 Canadian cents to yield 3.194 percent. (Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Peter Galloway)
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