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Prime minister vows to fight opposition takeover

Latest update : 2008-12-04

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to use 'every legal means' to block plans by the opposition to replace his minority government with a left-leaning coalition that includes the autonomist Bloc Quebecois.

AFP - Prime Minister Stephen Harper urged Canadians in a televised address on Wednesday to reject an opposition bid to oust his ruling Conservatives and install a leftist-separatist coalition without elections.

"Canadians take pride in our history as one of the world's oldest continuous democracies," said the prime minister. "During the past 141 years, political parties have emerged and disappeared, leaders have come and gone, and governments have changed.

"Constant in every case however is the principle that Canada's government has always been chosen by the people."

"This is a pivotal moment in our history," he said. "Tonight, I pledge to you that Canada's government will use every legal means at our disposal to protect our democracy, to protect our economy and to protect Canada."

The nation sank into a political crisis after opposition parties this week vowed to unseat Harper's minority government and install a coalition led by Liberal leader Stephane Dion.

The opposition move was triggered over differences on how to seed an economic turnaround as Canada confronts the global financial crisis.

But it came only seven weeks after Harper was reelected with a stronger minority in the country's third snap elections in four years.

On Thursday, Harper is expected to ask the country's acting head of state, the governor general, to cut short the current session of parliament after just two weeks to delay a no-confidence vote set for December 8.

Shutting down parliament for up to two months would also give Harper some time to try to resolve the crisis in the Group of Eight nation.

And Harper's finance minister would be able to present a budget on January 27, including an economic stimulus package that opposition parties have been clamoring for, and so undercut their power grab.

Harper in his speech urged his rivals to reconsider their alliance with the separatist Bloc Quebecois, "whose avowed goal is to break up the country" by splitting French-speaking Quebec from the rest of Canada.

"Let me be clear, Canada's government cannot enter into a power sharing coalition with a separatist party. At a time of global economic instability, Canada's government must stand unequivocally for keeping the country together."

"The opposition is attempting to impose this deal without your say, without your consent and without your vote," Harper said. "And the opposition does not have the democratic right to impose a coalition with the separatists..."

In his own address to Canadians, Dion said: "The Harper Conservatives have lost the confidence of the majority of members of the House of Commons ... They have lost the right to govern."

"We believe we can better solve the challenges facing Canada through teamwork and collaboration, rather than blind partisan feuding and hostility," he said.

Dion also announced that he wrote to Governor General Michaelle Jean to ask her to "refuse any request by the prime minister to suspend Parliament."

Jean earlier cut short a four-country European trip to return home to manage the crisis, landing back in the country at dusk.

It is up to the governor general, as representative of Canada's head of state Queen Elizabeth II, whether to prorogue parliament or allow the coalition's request for a chance to govern now.

Alternately she could dissolve parliament and ask voters to weigh in.

"We have an unprecedented situation in Canada now," Jean told journalists at a joint news conference with Slovenian President Danilo Turk before heading home.

Ailing sectors of the Canadian economy, notably auto and forestry firms, have welcomed the coalition's power grab and its pledge for fast relief.

But Canadians are split on who to support in this political fight.

According to an Angus Reid poll, 64 percent of Canadians do not back Dion to be prime minister in a coalition government, but 53 percent are against the Conservatives' current economic policy.

Fifty-seven percent are also concerned about the separatist Bloc Quebecois's role in the coalition.

Date created : 2008-12-04