August 28, 2008 / 4:42 PM / in 9 years

Signs grow for imminent election

OTTAWA (Reuters) - In another sign of an imminent federal election, the leader of the opposition Bloc Quebecois agreed on Thursday to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week to see if there was any common ground.

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper (L) arrives at a sculpture before delivering a speech in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, August 28, 2008. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>

Duceppe will meet Harper at the prime minister’s official residence on Friday.

The head of another opposition party, the New Democrats’ Jack Layton, will see the prime minister the following day.

Harper, elected in January 2006, had asked to meet all three opposition leaders to see if any would agree to let key parts of his agenda through Parliament in the autumn session. His minority government needs at least one party’s support.

If not, the Conservative leader had said it might be better for the Canadian people to give a fresh mandate to the government, whether led by him or another party leader.

<p>Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with Canada's northern premiers during his Western Arctic tour in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, August 28, 2008. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>

So far, the Liberals’ Stephane Dion, head of the biggest party and the only opposition leader with a realistic shot at becoming prime minister, is refusing to talk on the phone or to meet Harper before September 9.

Conservative sources have said that Harper would like to trigger the election next week, but it’s not clear if he would do this without talking to Dion.

In any case, the meetings with Harper appear to be more a formality since each of the parties has made it clear they will not support the Conservatives.

“I think the fix is in. I think we’re going through a charade here,” Layton told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Duceppe’s spokesman, Frederic Lepage, said he would not want to prejudge the outcome of the talks but noted the Bloc leader had said a week ago that he would introduce a motion of nonconfidence as soon as possible after Parliament’s scheduled September 15 return from its summer recess.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Ted Kerr

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