Canada opposition bids to unseat PM
Three opposition parties say conservative government has failed on economic crisis.
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2008 00:07 GMT
Dion's opposition Liberal party suffered a heavy
defeat in October elections [Reuters]

The leaders of Canada's three opposition parties have signed a deal aimed at toppling the country's minority government, accusing it of failing to act over the nation's economic crisis.

The three parties have said a no-confidence vote will be held on December 8 in a bid to wrest power from Stephen Harper, the prime minister, and his Conservative party.

The Liberals and New Democrats signed a formal deal splitting cabinet posts between them while the third party - the Bloc Quebecois - is promising to back the government for 18 months.

The parties are also angry that Harper proposed last week to end public financing for political parties, a move that would have hit the opposition particularly hard.

Stephane Dion, leader of the Liberal party, said the parties felt it was time to "take action".

"We're ready to form a new government," he told a news conference.

The parties agreed that Dion would head a coalition government if it were formed after a successful no-confidence vote, despite the Liberal party suffering a heavy defeat in national elections only six weeks ago.

The coalition would reportedly try to govern for up to 18 months without seeking a new mandate, with the Conservatives in opposition. It would also develop an immediate $24bn economic stimulus package.

However, Dion's poor campaign performance means his choice is likely to be controversial and he has already agreed to step down next May once a replacement is chosen.

Conservatives' anger

The three parties began negotiating to oust Harper last week after the Conservatives released a financial plan the opposition criticised for not including measures to stimulate the weakening Canadian economy.

Conservatives have criticised the move by the three parties as illegal and as an undemocratic power grab by the Liberal party and its leader, which had failed to inspire Canadians in the October elections.

Analysts also say that Harper is unlikely to give up the reins of power without a fierce fight and some said this could lead to a constitutional crisis.

Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Canada's revenue minister, accused the opposition of trying to subvert democracy.

"I'm sure all Canadians will really ask themselves whether overturning the results of an election a few weeks later in order to form a coalition that nobody voted for and can govern only with the veto of the people who want to break up this country," he was quoted by Reuters as saying on Monday, referring to the Bloc Quebecois who have unsuccessfully sought the secession of Quebec from Canada. 

"Do they really believe that is in the interests of this country?"

The Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois command 163 seats in the House of Commons while the Conservatives have 143 seats and two MPs are independent.

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