Liberals reject call for early Canadian election
TORONTO — Canada’s minority Liberal government on Monday rejected an opposition demand for general elections in February, a move that could topple Prime Minister Paul Martin’s administration and force the first Christmas campaign in 26 years.
The country’s three opposition party leaders called on Martin Sunday to agree to dissolve Parliament in January and hold elections the next month or face a no-confidence motion that could bring down his government as early as next week.
The opposition says the Liberal Party no longer has the moral authority to lead the nation because of a corruption scandal. An investigative report issued two weeks ago absolved Martin of any wrongdoing, but accused senior Liberal Party members of kickbacks and misspending tens of millions of dollars in public funds.
Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper said his party would join with the New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois parties to bring down the government if Martin rejects their demand to go to the polls in early January.
If Martin promises in writing to call an election on his own in the first week of January, it would be held in February. Under Canada’s Parliament system, candidates only have 36 days to campaign.
Should Martin continue to disagree, Harper has enough opposition votes to bring down the government in a no-confidence motion in Parliament, launching a campaign that would overlap the Christmas-New Year season, although the actual election would likely be in the first two weeks of January.
New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton — whose support of Martin’s minority government helped avoid early elections earlier — said he hadn’t received enough assurances that the Liberal Party would crack down on the increased use of private health care.
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