Opposition set to topple Canadian PM; Dion to replace Harper (Lead)

December 2nd, 2008 - 1:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Dec 2 (IANS) In a political coup, Canada’s three opposition parties have formed a coalition to oust the just elected minority government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.In a deal signed by the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party (NDP) and backed by the separatist Bloc Quebecois in Ottawa Monday, the first two parties will form a new government, with the third supporting them from outside.

The three parties could defeat the government as early as next Monday when the confidence vote is held.

Under the deal, Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion will become the new prime minister till May when his party chooses a new leader to replace him.

Dion has sent a letter to Governor-General Michaelle Jean - who is away in Europe - about the decision of the combined opposition to defeat the current government in the House and form a coalition government.

“I’m pleased to announce we are ready to form a government,” declared Dion after he signed the deal with NDP leader Jack Layton and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe.

He said the coalition will “effectively, prudently, promptly and competently address these critical economic times”.

Though it was not announced by the coalition partners, it is understood they plan a $30-billion package to stimulate the economy.

The coalition deal will last till June 30, 2011, when the two parties will review their relationship.

But the Bloc Quebecois, which is supporting them from outside, said it will back the coalition only till June 30, 2010, and then review the arrangement.

The cabinet will have 18 ministers from the Liberal Party and six from the NDP. It will be the first time since 1926 that a Canadian government will be replaced without an election.

In the 308-member House of Commons, the ruling Conservative Party has 143 MPs, the Liberal Party 77, the NDP 37 and the Bloc Quebecois 49.

In the Oct 14 general election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party was returned with a tally of 143 seats in the 308-member House of Commons. But it fell short of the 155-seat majority mark, leading to the current crisis.

Curiously, Dion, who will be Canada’s new prime minister, had led his Liberal Party to its worst-ever defeat in decades, reducing its tally from 95 to 77 in parliament.

He is scheduled to step down in May when his party chooses a new leader who will then become the prime minister.

What brought the opposition parties together was the last week’s economic update by the ruling party which failed to announce any package to stimulate the economy and cut public funding for political parties.

An outraged Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canadians will not like the overturning of “the results of an election a few weeks later in order to form a coalition nobody voted for and everybody denied”.

Referring to the Bloc Quebecois which wants French-speaking Quebec province to break away from Canada, the prime minister said: “And to have a coalition like that that can govern only with the veto of the people who want to break up this country. Do they really believe that is in the interests of this country?”

Earlier, Dion locked horns with the prime minister in the House of Commons, challenging him to prove his majority.

In response, Harper accused Dion of indulging in “the biggest political game” in the history of the country.

Canadians reacted furiously to the new political developments, with most of them denouncing the deal.

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