Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Canada's prime minister buys time

OTTAWA — Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper shut down Parliament Thursday in an unprecedented attempt to keep his government in power, fending off a no-confidence vote he was all but certain to lose.

With the move, which comes less than two months after he won re-election, Harper hopes to buy enough time to develop a stimulus package that could prop up the economy.

Had his request been rejected by Governor General Michaelle Jean, who represents Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, the prime minister would have had two choices: step down or face the vote on Monday.

Three opposition parties united against Harper, saying he has failed to insulate Canada from the global financial crisis. The credit crisis and a global selloff of commodities have slowed Canada's resource-rich economy, and the finance minister said last week he expects a recession.

"For the first time in the history of Canada, the prime minister is running away from the Parliament of Canada," said Liberal leader Stephane Dion, who headed the opposition movement against Harper.

The past several days have been filled with political turmoil, as the Liberals and New Democrats worked on a plan to form a coalition, with the support of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, to replace Harper's Conservative-led government. Such a turn would also be unprecedented move in Canadian politics.

"The public is very frustrated by the current situation in Parliament, and we are all responsible for it," Harper said. "Today's decision will give us an opportunity — and I'm talking about all the parties — to focus on the economy and work together." The first item of business when Parliament resumes will be the budget, he said.

Jack Layton, leader of the New Democrats, said the shutdown only delays Harper's inevitable defeat.

In the last election, Harper's Conservative Party failed to win a majority in the House of Commons. But in contrast to the relative indifference to the elections two months ago, the current stalemate has provoked a passionate debate in the country online, in public and through radio call-in shows.

Some Conservative members suggest the coalition members are near-traitors. "That is as close to treason and sedition as I can imagine," Bob Dechert, a Conservative member said on Wednesday, echoing a refrain widely heard in Harper's home province of Alberta.

The opposition coalition said Thursday it would continue with its effort to form a government despite the closure of Parliament and condemned Harper's tactics as undemocratic.

Canada's prime minister buys time 12/04/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 5, 2008 4:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]
  2. Man injured when small helicopter crashes into Odessa home


    ODESSA — A small manned helicopter crashed into the roof of a house in northwest Hillsborough County on Monday, injuring a pilot, officials said.

    Rescuers respond to a crash of a small helicopter on the roof of a home in the Odessa area on Monday. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]
  3. State investigation cites multiple failures in death of Largo child


    LARGO — It was sweltering in the bedroom of the Largo mobile home the day a child welfare case manager visited in July.

    Liz Rutenbeck, 24, poses with her son William in a Facebook photo. Baby William Hendrickson IV died while his mother was in jail after police said his father left ihim in a sweltering room.  A state investigation into the boy's death found multiple failures on the part of the child welfare system.
  4. 'Siesta Key' star punched in face, not sure who did it


    TAMPA —Alex Kompothecras, cast member on MTV's reality show "Siesta Key," tells police he was punched in the face outside a bar in Tampa's SoHo district.

    Alex Kompothecras, Juliette Porter, Pauly Apostolides, Madisson Hausburg, Chloe Trautman, Garrett Miller, Kelsey Owens and Brandon Gomes pose for a photo in Siesta Key in June before the debut of the MTV reality series Siesta Key. [
EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Editorial: Senate health care bill would be disastrous for Florida


    The frantic effort by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with something — anything — ranks raw politics over sound policy and threatens the health care of millions of Floridians. It is a desperate attempt to declare victory by shifting responsibility from the federal government …

    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks in August in Doral.