March 23, 2011 / 1:32 PM / 7 years ago

Canada PM to defend budget as election looms

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s prime minister will defend his government’s budget on Wednesday in the face of opposition promises to vote it down, something that would trigger the fall of the government and a spring election.

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 22, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

Canada’s three opposition parties said on Tuesday they would not support the budget, which promises to rein in a deficit created by tax cuts and billions of dollars of spending to pull Canada out of recession.

If all three parties vote against the budget, the minority Conservative government falls, and an election campaign will start immediately.

Polls show Prime Minister Stephen Harper would easily retain power in an election, although he may not win enough support to win a majority.

Harper, who insists Canadians do not want an election, will speak to reporters at 11:30 a.m. (1530 GMT). An aide said he would not announce plans to seek the dissolution of Parliament -- an option that would deny the opposition a chance to lambast his government in Parliamentary debates on the budget or on a motion of non-confidence.

The opposition could also bring Harper down in other votes on Friday that are unrelated to the budget.

The main opposition Liberals will decide by noon whether to present a motion on Friday declaring non-confidence in the government. Legislators will also vote on a routine financing bill on Friday.

The budget promised to shrink the federal deficit by a quarter this year and it included small, targeted measures for low-income seniors, the unemployed and businesses.

But the plan did not go far enough for the opposition New Democrats, the party that had been viewed as most likely to support the budget and keep Harper in power, and party leader Jack Layton joined the other two opposition parties in promising to vote against it.

An election campaign will pit Conservative assurances that only they can be trusted to manage an economy that is still emerging from recession against opposition charges of government sleaze and waste.

This week a Parliamentary committee slapped the government with the first contempt ruling in Canada’s history, deciding that the government had hidden the full costs of a spending program. That issue could be debated in Parliament on Wednesday.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Janet Guttsman

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