(Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper has won a rare request to suspend Parliament until January 26. The move cooled the immediate political crisis in Ottawa, and blocked, at least temporally, opposition efforts to replace the Conservatives with a coalition government. Here are some possible scenarios on what could happen next.
The prime minister has said the first order of business when Parliament returns will be the budget. Harper announced during the crisis that the new budget, with a focus on economic stimulus, would be introduced on January 27 instead of in late February or early March when it is normally unveiled.
The document will be a test of whether the minority Conservative government has managed to regain the confidence of the House of Commons, or if it again faces being defeated in a no-confidence vote.
The opposition Liberals say they are still committed to ousting the Conservatives unless Harper makes “monumental changes” and introduces a “real recovery plan” for the weakening Canadian economy.
Some polls indicated support for the Conservatives has strengthened during the political crisis even if many voters indicated they were not happy with Harper’s handling of the dispute.
Polls showed voters are uneasy with the idea that Liberal leader Stephane Dion would become even a temporary prime minister under a coalition government. The Liberals did very poorly in the October 14, elections under Dion.
Dion has said he will step down in early May when a new leader is chosen, but discussion are reportedly under way to look into the possibility that a new leader with stronger public appeal can be chosen before then.
The two leading contenders are Michael Ignatieff, 61, a well known academic and writer, who came second to Dion in the last leadership race in 2006; and Bob Rae 60, a former premier of the province of Ontario.
The leaders of the Liberal, New Democratic and Bloc Quebecois parties say their members still strongly support the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition, backed by Bloc, but there are also signs of discontent within the Liberal Party.
But the Conservatives are seen as targeting wavering Liberals, who have been pushing for greater economic stimulus, possibility by promising aid to the automobile industry or increased spending on infrastructure programs.
Ignatieff, seen as the front-runner in the Liberal leadership race, said the Conservatives’ effort to divide the Liberals will fail unless Harper changes his economic plans and the way he deals with the other political parties.
But Ignatieff said all members of Parliament should have a “good think” about their next steps before they return on January 26.
Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson