OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s minority Conservative government gained the temporary support of an opposition party on Monday and is poised to survive a non-confidence motion in Parliament later this week.
The non-confidence vote will come before Parliament debates draft legislation to boost jobless benefits by some C$1 billion ($920 million) -- a measure that the left-leaning New Democratic Party has long demanded.
“We want this billion (dollars) to be available for the families who need it and we’re not going to prevent that,” said New Democrat leader Jack Layton, usually a vehement critic of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Layton did not say in so many words how he would vote on the non-confidence motion submitted by the opposition Liberals. But the party has already signaled that it will support the government, and Layton’s comments further supported that.
Unless all three opposition parties back the Liberals’ non-confidence motion, the government stays in power and Canada escapes what would have been the second election in a year.
“This issue for us is basic trust... We’ve had enough,” Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff told reporters.
Harper denounced that stance as irresponsible.
“I think Canadians expect, at a time of this kind of economic challenge, they expect members of Parliament of all parties to be hard at work on the economy and not playing those kinds of parliamentary games,” he said.
Polls show the Conservatives would easily win their third successive minority government if an election were held now.
Support for the Liberals has dwindled since they said earlier this month that they planned to topple the government. The Liberals say the government has mismanaged the economic crisis and does not deserve to stay in power.
A Leger Marketing survey for the Sun chain of newspapers on Monday put the Conservatives at 36 percent support with the Liberals at 30 percent.
Leger polled 3,602 people in a hybrid phone/Internet survey from September 22-25. This should give a margin of error of 1.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The government on Monday also released the third in a series of quarterly updates on how it is spending a two-year C$46.5 billion stimulus package announced in January.
The report said a fragile recovery is under way, but significant uncertainty remained over its speed, comments that were echoed by Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney in a speech in Victoria, British Columbia.
Carney said the Canadian economy was on track to recover from recession, although there were still risks, including the strength of the Canadian dollar.
Editing by Janet Guttsman