Stephen Harper obtains an unprecedented shutdown of parliament, thwarting an opposition bid to unseat his ruling Conservatives and install a leftist coalition.
Canadian PM shuts down parliament
Canada's embattled prime minister has obtained an unprecedented shutdown of parliament, thwarting an opposition bid to unseat his ruling Conservatives and install a leftist coalition. After two hours of crisis talks here, the acting head of state Governor General Michaelle Jean agreed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's request to suspend the two-week old assembly until the end of January. The decision effectively stymies opposition plans to topple Mr Harper's government next week.
"On my advice, the governor-general has agreed to prorogue parliament," said Mr Harper, after a week of political turmoil when all three opposition parties banded together to try to oust his government. The main Liberal opposition led by Stephane Dion spearheaded the move to try to unseat Mr Harper, accusing him of failing to shore up the nation's sagging economy. Mr Dion's coalition had scheduled a vote of no confidence in Mr Harper's administration for Dec 8, just seven weeks after Harper was re-elected at the head of a minority government.
The censure motion would have precipitated the rise of a Liberal-New Democrat coalition, supported by the separatist Bloc Quebecois, or resulted in Canada's fourth snap elections in four years. The governor general's decision now gives Harper a chance to try to resolve the crisis. As well, it allows his finance minister time to prepare a budget for Jan 27 that is expected to undercut the coalition's call for a fast-tracked economic stimulus package.
"We are planning here the quickest federal budget in history," Mr Harper said. "I don't think [the opposition] could produce a budget any quicker than this." "So I would simply encourage them to engage with the government," he said. "What I think Canadians want us to do is work on the economy and work together." The coalition however was unwavering. "We must realise the enormity of what has happened here today," said Dion.
Gilles Duceppe, leader of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, and Jack Layton of the socialist New Democrats also pledged their continued support for the coalition. "He's put a lock on the door of the House of Commons," Mr Layton said of Harper's delay tactic. "And he refuses to face the people of Canada through their elected representatives." "That is an attack on democracy," he said. Canada is the only Group of Eight industrialised nation to be seemingly weathering the global financial crisis and the only G8 country forecast by the International Monetary Fund to post positive growth next year.
But key sectors of its economy are struggling and private sector forecasts say Canada may already be in a recession. *AFP