Canadian leader suspends Parliament to keep power

Canada’s parliament was closed on Friday after Stephen Harper, the prime minister, succeeded in suspending it until the new year in order to avoid almost certain defeat in an imminent confidence vote.

Stephen Harper Canada's prime minster speaking at Rideau Hall in Ottawa
Stephen Harper Canada’s prime minster speaking at Rideau Hall in Ottawa Photo: REUTERS

The unprecedented move stemmed from a bitter argument with opposition parties over an economic stimulus package.

Michaëlle Jean, who as governor-general acts as Queen Elizabeth’s representative and is de facto head of state, agreed to suspend parliament for seven weeks, when Mr Harper’s Conservative government will present a new budget.

The prime minister has refused to follow the global trend of relying on heavy central government spending to help his country’s struggling economy and, more controversially, tried to cut £14.5 million funding for other parties, knowing that his own Conservative Party had plenty in the bank.

The main opposition Liberals, the leftist New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois , which seeks independence from Canada, signed a deal on Monday to try to replace Mr Harper’s minority rule with a coalition, just two months after he won an election. The say that he has no plan to steer Canada through the global financial crisis.

But Mr Harper has accused his rivals of wanting to practice “socialist economics”.

“For the first time in the history of Canada the prime minister is running away from the parliament of Canada,” said Stephane Dion, leader of the Liberal Party.

As constitutional scholars denounced the move, Mr Harper said he was going to use the time to think about the economy.

When parliament reopens he will present a budget with an economic stimulus package, and has already dropped the proposal of cutting political subsidies.

The coalition could try to bring him down again, though some Liberals are saying they should think hard before doing that.

A new poll showed that if an election were held now Mr Harper would win by a margin great enough to hold a majority in parliament.

Fifty-six percent of those polled by Ipsos Reid also said they would rather see another election, rather than let the Liberal-led coalition govern.

By Alex Spillius in Washington
Last Updated: 9:53PM GMT 05 Dec 2008

Source: The Telegraph

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