OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s Liberals opened the door a crack to forming their own minority government after the May 2 election, but played down the idea of a formal coalition with the left-leaning New Democrats.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said on Tuesday there were circumstances where the Liberals might try to form a minority government, even if they did not win the most seats in Parliament, the likely outcome if opinion polls are right.
The Conservatives had a minority of seats in the outgoing Parliament and needed support from at least one opposition party to stay in power.
If they have a minority again, but are unable to find support from a rival, Governor General David Johnston, Canada’s acting head of state, would have to act.
“If the governor general wants to call on other parties, or myself for example, to try and form a government, then we try and form a government. That’s exactly how the rules work...,” Ignatieff said in an interview on CBC television.
Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly warned that the Liberals could take power with the support of the New Democrats and the separatist Bloc Quebecois, and that this could upend Canada’s still fragile economic recovery.
Previous Liberal leader Stephane Dion proposed a coalition with the New Democrats, with less formal support from the Bloc, after the last federal election in 2008, an idea that proved deeply unpopular with voters.
Canada has had minority governments since 2004, one of them Liberal and two Conservative, and Harper hopes to win the handful of seats that his party needs to transform his minority government into a more stable majority one.
“If we win a minority, I think all the signals are clear. The other three parties are going to get together in some form ... to run the country instead,” he said on Tuesday. “(It) will either be a Conservative majority or it will a majority cobbled together between the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois.”
He added: “If Canadians want...a stable government that will lead it forward, the only option is a Conservative government and obviously I‘m very encouraged that that’s what we’ll get on May 2,” he said.
When Parliament was dissolved on March 26, the Conservatives had 143 seats, a dozen shy of the 155 needed for a majority.
Most projections suggest the Conservatives, whose polling numbers are hovering just under 40 percent, could add a few seats. But they probably will not get enough seats to win a majority.
The Liberals say Harper cannot be trusted and his fiscal numbers don’t add up. They would raise corporate taxes to pay for higher education and social spending.
The Conservatives say corporate taxes should keep falling to increase competitiveness. They promise a further crackdown on crime and want to spend billions of dollars on fighter jets.
Additional reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Janet Guttsman