August 12, 2009 / 4:09 PM / in 8 years

Separatists could back bid to topple Canada gov't

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s separatist Bloc Quebecois party, which holds the balance of power in Parliament, indicated on Wednesday it could back a bid to bring down the minority Conservative government.

<p>Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe gestures during a news conference in Montreal October 15, 2008. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger (CANADA)</p>

The main opposition Liberal Party says it is ready to introduce a non-confidence motion late next month on the grounds that the government is not doing enough to help those who have lost their jobs in the economic crisis.

All three opposition parties would have to vote for the motion to topple the Conservatives.

Polls show neither the Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper nor the Liberals, led by Michael Ignatieff, are guaranteed of victory in an election now.

Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe accused Harper of ignoring the plight of the homeless and also attacked Ignatieff, who has backed Harper on key votes this year.

“If Stephen Harper refuses to change his policies to help people who are losing their jobs, and if Michael Ignatieff stops bending before Stephen Harper and assumes his responsibilities, a federal election could be triggered as soon as the start of October,” Duceppe said in a statement.

The left-leaning New Democrats have already made it clear they would support a non-confidence motion.

Ignatieff threatened to try to bring down the government in June over the issue of extending jobless benefits. He then backed down, agreeing instead to the creation of a bilateral panel to examine how to change the Unemployment Insurance system

So far, the two sides on the panel have done little but snipe at each other. The panel is due to release a report at the end of September and the Liberals will then get a chance to introduce a non-confidence motion if they want.

If the motion succeeds, it would set off the fourth election in little over five years. The Conservatives won with a strengthened minority in the October 2008 vote.

Last week, Bloc officials denied rumors that Duceppe would this week announce he planned to quit. If he did leave, the Bloc could argue it needed to concentrate on finding a new leader rather than voting against the government.

The Bloc holds 48 of the 75 seats from the largely French-speaking province of Quebec and is in such a position of strength that neither the Liberals nor Conservatives stand a chance of winning a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.

Canada has had minority governments since mid-2004.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson

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