Canada's opposition vows to bring down the minority government

Barely six weeks after Canadians elected a minority Conservative government, opposition parties Friday vowed to bring down the Tories, dpa reported.

Elder statesmen from the left-of-centre Liberal Party and the socialist New Democratic Party were discussing a possible coalition government, with former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien and NDP leader Ed Broadbent engaged in talks about a deal.

All three opposition parties - the Liberals, the NDP and the separatist Bloc Quebecois from the French-speaking province of Quebec - have angrily rejected the Tories' economic plan that contained no stimulus package for Canada's slumping economy.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty presented the fiscal update Thursday. It contained austerity measures, including a promise to cut federal subsidies to political parties, that enraged the opposition parties, which depend on federal subsidies much more than the Tories.

Flaherty also promised to trim government spending and temporarily ban strikes by government employees.

The proposed measures prompted a rare show of unity by the opposition parties.

"We are deadly serious in opposing this measure," said Liberal MP and former finance minister John McCallum. "We will vote against it ... because it is both pathetic and pernicious."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper shot back Friday evening by accusing the opposition of trying to take power, not earn it.

"While we are working on the economy, the opposition has been working on a backroom deal to overturn the results of the last election without seeking the consent of voters," Harper said in a hastily called address.

"The opposition has every right to defeat the government but [Liberal leader] Stephane Dion does not have the right to take power without an election," Harper said.

To buy more time, Harper delayed the confidence vote in the House of Commons to December 8 instead of the coming Monday.

Liberals have introduced a no-confidence motion and a proposal for a coalition government. The motion charges that the government has failed "to recognize the seriousness of Canada's economic situation."

If the no-confidence motion passes, the Liberals and New Democrats would request Governor General Michaelle Jean's permission to try to form a coalition government. Jean is Queen Elizabeth's representative in Canada.

Jean can either agree or call new elections. But even if she agrees to opposition demands, it is unclear who will lead the coalition government.

The Liberal Party, the largest of all three opposition parties, is led by a caretaker leader. Liberal leader Stephane Dion had announced that he would step down in April following the Liberals' dismal performance in October's elections. No replacement for him has been chosen yet.

There are also serious policy differences between the Liberals and NDP that stand in the way of a coalition government. The NDP demands an immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan and a rollback of 50 billion dollars worth of corporate tax breaks.

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