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Canada PM demands confidence vote over proposed probe into government's pandemic handling

OTTAWA, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday put the fate of his Liberal government on the line, saying an opposition push to probe how Ottawa is tackling the coronavirus pandemic would be put to a confidence vote.

The Liberals, who only won a minority of seats in an October 2019 election, would need the support of another party to survive. The chances of Trudeau actually losing power were unclear, since both he and his chief rival insisted they did not want to go to the polls during a worsening outbreak.

The official opposition Conservatives want to create a committee to examine what they call the government’s ethical problems around its handling of the pandemic. One area of focus is payments to Trudeau’s wife and mother by a charity picked by the government to manage a student grant program.

“The opposition is going to have to decide whether they want to make this minority parliament work or whether they have lost confidence in the government,” Trudeau told a news conference.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole - who must decide whether he wants to continue his efforts - earlier told reporters that what he called misuse of funds should be probed. If there were to be a vote it would be later this week.

Trudeau’s fate most likely depends on the left-leaning New Democrats, who have already said they will back the Liberals as they commit hundreds of billions of dollars to fight the pandemic. The office of New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh was not immediately available for comment.

The deal to run the student program was scrapped but cost Trudeau the services of finance minister Bill Morneau, who quit in August after he disclosed he had forgotten to repay travel expenses covered for him by the charity. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Marguerita Choy)