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Martin may face vote from angry Liberals

Several disgruntled former Liberal Cabinet ministers have served notice that Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority government can't count on full support from his caucus.

Other Liberals have quietly started campaigns to challenge Martin in a leadership vote they believe could happen as early as late this year should the shaky government be defeated.

Even though the next session of Parliament doesn't resume for two weeks for the government elected in June, political observers say Martin's grasp on power has weakened.

David Anderson, who was dropped from the Cabinet, said disaffected Liberals should not be plotting to undermine Martin's leadership but they should "vote with their conscience."

The government would be defeated and another election ordered if the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois unite in opposition with the support of a few unhappy Liberals to outvote the government on a key bill.

Two main critics of the recent federal-provincial health deal, ex-Cabinet ministers John Manley and Maurizio Bevilacqua, have prepared their leadership campaign teams.

Other potential candidates, including onetime Justice Minister Martin Cauchon and former New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna, are said to be waiting patiently to replace Martin.

Canada may join U.S. missile defense program

Canada is considering joining the U.S. missile defense program but the decision hinges on more talks.

Defense Minister Bill Graham called it "an important program in the context of Canada-U.S. relations." Critics dismiss the project as a Star Wars-style scheme of putting weapons in space.

It's an issue that has divided the governing Liberals, with some suggesting a decision should wait until after the U.S. presidential election in the hopes that President Bush loses and the project is stalled.

News in brief

+ Diana Kerry, sister of U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry, is urging the more than 500,000 Americans living in Canada to register to vote. She was the keynote speaker at the University of Toronto Faculty Club, joined by former U.S. Ambassador James Blanchard and high-profile Democratic supporters. They suggested Canada-U.S. relationships would improve under Kerry.

+ The Canadian government's price to sell off its 19 percent stake in Petro-Canada is $64.50 a share, or $3.2-billion. The Liberal government is getting out of the oil and gas business and plans to use the money to support new environmental technologies and health care.

+ Legal experts believe it will take a successful appeal by Robert Baltovich _ convicted in the 1990 murder of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Bain _ before police will re-examine circumstantial evidence linking imprisoned Ontario sex killer Paul Bernardo to the crime. Attorneys say the case against Bernardo is strong enough to at least warrant a new trial.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar is continuing to strengthen, reaching 78.42 cents U.S. on Friday, while the U.S. dollar returns $1.2751 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

There's no change in the key Bank of Canada's interest rate of 2.25 percent or the prime lending rate at 4 percent.

Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 8,574 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange 1,547 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 13, 30, 32, 33, 42 and 46; bonus 5. (Sept. 18) 7, 11, 15, 39, 42 and 48; bonus 40.

Regional briefs

+ Party leader Mario Dumont says the Action Democratique du Quebec wants the mainly French-speaking province to become an autonomous state within Canada and have sole power to collect taxes. Autonomy is the only solution, he said, adding that sovereignty options of the Parti Quebecois and the federalist stance of the Quebec Liberal party are not acceptable.

+ New Brunswick's government is determined to move ahead with a province-wide ban on smoking in public places next Friday. The hospitality industry has asked for a three-month delay but the government said it believes most people support the ban.

+ Vancouver will attract hundreds of the world's top space brains for the annual International Astronautical Congress on Oct. 4-8. Experts will discuss issues including the next step in the exploration of deep space, robotic exploration of Mars and global natural disaster management. For amateurs, SpaceFest has sessions on the latest out-of-this-world technology.

+ Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert started the countdown to the centennial celebrations by urging former residents to return home for a visit. Neighboring Alberta also celebrates its centennial next year.

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