March 13, 2008 / 9:29 PM / in 10 years

Canadians don't want election now, opposition says

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s minority Conservative government won a new confidence vote on Thursday after most of the Liberal opposition abstained on a budget resolution, and Liberal leader Stephane Dion said Canadians don’t want a new federal election.

“We’ve decided we will not trigger an election right now, and I think we are in agreement with the overwhelming majority of Canadians,” Dion told reporters.

He was speaking after he and a handful of Liberals voted against a government budget motion. But the rest of the party stayed in their seats, guaranteeing a government victory.

The Liberals were set to back another confidence motion later on Thursday on extending Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan to 2011.

The Liberals have propped up the Conservatives on other votes in recent weeks, prompting some opponents to ridicule Dion as a weak leader who should let the Liberals take their chances in an early election.

But some of his advisers say there is little point in an election now. Polls point to another minority government, quite possibly another Conservative one.

The Conservatives were elected in January 2006 after more than 12 years of Liberal rule. The next election is due in October 2009, but it could take place earlier if opposition parties combine forces to vote the government out.

The Liberals have thrown the Conservatives off message for weeks with charges of unethical or criminal behavior, charging that Conservative Party officials tried to bribe a dying member of Parliament in 2005, and that Harper knew of this.

The Conservatives have denied bribery, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday sued the Liberals for C$2.5 million ($2.5 million) for libel for stating he knew of such an attempt.

The House of Commons is taking a two-week Easter break starting this weekend. Some Liberals want to topple the government in April or May, but others say they should only do so if their party makes significant gains in the polls.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Janet Guttsman

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