September 13, 2009 / 11:27 PM / in 8 years

Canada's NDP leader says election is not inevitable

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada can avoid an election if Prime Minister Stephen Harper works with the opposition to resolve differences on employment insurance and other issues dividing Parliament, the leader of the New Democrats said on Sunday.

<p>New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton responds to questions about the possibility of federal fall election during a news conference at the Delta Barrington hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, September 3, 2009. REUTERS/Paul Darrow</p>

“An election is certainly not inevitable,” said Jack Layton, who leads the second-biggest opposition party in the House of Commons.

The Liberals, the main opposition party, have signaled they would try to take Harper’s Conservative government down at the first opportunity when Parliament resumes this week and force a new election.

Last October, voters returned Harper to office with a strengthened minority, but he still must rely on support of at least one other party in the Commons to stay in power.

“There still is time for the prime minister to do the right thing, and that is to work with other parties on the issues that are facing Canadians in this recession,” Layton said in an interview on CTV’s “Question Period.”

“I‘m asking Stephen Harper to start focusing on getting results. ... Why don’t we just get to work?,” he said.

Layton’s conciliatory words come amid speculation that the Conservatives this week will unveil initiatives on employment insurance that the NDP could support.

Recent opinion polls give the Conservatives a 3 to 5 percentage point lead over the Liberals. That would still leave the ruling party short of what it would take to form a majority government after the next election. Canada has had minority governments since 2004.

Reporting by Frank McGurty, Editing by Stacey Joyce

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