OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s minority Conservative government may seek the temporary suspension of Parliament to stop opposition parties from voting it out and taking power, an aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday.
The Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois signed a deal on Monday committing them to bringing down the government, just seven weeks after it won re-election with a strengthened minority, and forming coalition government to replace the Conservatives.
The opposition says Harper is not doing enough to tackle the financial crisis. Their formal agreement triggered one of the worst political crises in Canada’s history. They propose forging a coalition of Liberals and New Democrats, with the Bloc promising its support.
The Harper aide, saying the proposed deal with the separatist Bloc Quebecois was “an affront to our democracy (and) incredibly dangerous” for Canada, told reporters that the government would fight the coalition plan “with every legal means at our disposal.”
This could involve asking Governor General Michaelle Jean -- the personal representative of Queen Elizabeth, Canada’s head of state -- to temporarily suspend Parliament, he said.
Jean, who is in Prague on a state visit, said she would cut short her trip and fly back to Ottawa to try to resolve the crisis.
“I have decided that it is time for me now to go back home because my presence is required,” she told Reuters. Earlier she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that the drama “certainly requires a lot of attention.”
Jean mainly plays a figurehead role. That said, her word is final when dealing with constitutional matters.
The Harper aide said political rallies would be held to protest against the proposed coalition and said Harper might make a national televised address.
The Conservatives also released two radio ads, one of which said: “This is Canada. Power must be earned -- not taken.”
The opposition’s proposed coalition government would stay in power until at least June 30, 2010.
Harper -- facing his worst crisis since first winning power in January 2006 -- has promised a budget for January 27 and could seek to shut down Parliament until then to let tensions ease.
“I don’t know what the intentions of the prime minister are. Once I’ll be in Ottawa we will probably see each other, and I will listen to what he intends to do.... He hasn’t approached me yet,” Jean told Reuters.
The opposition leaders have sent Jean a letter saying they would be ready to govern if need be.
The Canadian capital has not seen such tension and political uncertainty since a failed 1995 referendum in Quebec on whether the province should break away from Canada.
Heritage Minister James Moore told CTV television that the Liberals and the New Democrats had lied to Canadians during the recent election campaign when they promised not to form a coalition.
“They’re entering into an agreement, giving the balance of power to Quebec separatists and Canadians are rightly outraged by this ... it’s not what Canadians voted for,” he said.
The Bloc wants independence for French-speaking Quebec but said on Monday this aim was trumped for now by the crisis.
The parties promised a major economic stimulus package as well as help for the struggling auto industry.
The opposition parties said the new prime minister would be Liberal leader Stephane Dion, who led his party to such a bad defeat on October 14 that he has promised to step down once members choose a replacement in May.
If Harper lets the confidence vote go ahead, he would run a big risk of losing.
The three opposition parties are also angry that the government tried last week in its economic and fiscal update to eliminate public financing for political parties, a move that would hit them particularly hard.
The Globe and Mail, which endorsed Harper in the election, ran a lead article savaging what it called his “horrendous miscalculations” and suggested he consider quitting.
It also said Dion was “a humbled and defeated party leader ... (who) has never earned the right to govern.”
The Conservatives hold 143 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons and need the support of at least one opposition party to remain in power. The Liberals have 77, the Bloc has 49 and the NDP has 37. There are two independents.
Additional reporting by Louise Egan in Ottawa and Jason Hovet in Prague; editing by Rob Wilson