October 6, 2009 / 4:21 PM / 8 years ago

Liberals less strident about defeating government

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s flagging Liberal Party pledged on Tuesday to vote against the government on every confidence matter, but left open the possibility it would not consistently introduce motions of non-confidence.

Hammered in opinion polls since it decided a month ago to try to topple the minority Conservative government as soon as possible, the Liberals appeared to be applying the brakes somewhat without reverting to their former position of supporting the government.

“We have lost confidence in this Conservative government and so will vote non-confidence on issues of confidence,” Liberal spokeswoman Jill Fairbrother said. “Beyond that, we will take each issue as it comes.”

Parliament defeated a Liberal confidence motion last week, and the party will have the chance to move two more such motions before the Christmas break. But Fairbrother made it clear the party will decide only at that time whether to try again to bring down the Conservatives.

The Liberals and Conservatives had been roughly tied in opinion polls for most of the summer, but public support shifted markedly to the ruling Conservatives when the Liberals pledged to pull the plug on the government.

The Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, won last year’s general election with a strengthened minority, but still require the support of at least one of the three opposition parties in the House of Commons to remain in power.

In the latest survey, Strategic Counsel put the Conservatives at 41 percent support -- probably enough to win a majority of the 308 seats in the House -- compared with the Liberals’ 28 percent.

Other polls have shown a smaller lead, one that would likely return another minority Conservative government, but the trend has shown the Liberals falling further behind and this has made many party members nervous.

As tempting as it may be to try to force an election himself, Harper says it would be inappropriate right now at the start of a fragile economic recovery.

“What I try and urge the opposition parties to do in the House of Commons is tell us what they would like done on the economy. If you don’t like what we’re doing, put your ideas on the table. We’ll debate them, maybe even adopt some of them,” Harper told Toronto’s Newstalk 1010 radio.

“That’s what people expect from their political parties right now. They don’t want to see gamesmanship,” he said

Even without opposition confidence motions, budget items and other matters could trigger an election if they fail. The House of Commons currently has government budget legislation before it that would implement a home renovation tax credit.

The small, leftist New Democratic Party has kept the Conservatives in power in the last two confidence tests.

Editing by Rob Wilson

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