Stage set for fall election showdown

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has set the stage for a fall election, warning Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “Your time is up.”

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff delivers a speech at Liberal Caucus during their summer retreat in Sudbury

SUDBURY, Ont. — Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has set the stage for a fall election, warning Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “Your time is up.”

But the minority Conservative government could yet survive thanks to an unlikely ally — the NDP now says it may prop up Harper if he’s willing to work with them.

Ignatieff delivered a fiery, campaign-style speech to his caucus Tuesday, announcing that the party will no longer support the Tories.

“Mr. Harper, your time is up,” he told cheering MPs and senators in Sudbury.

“The Liberal party cannot support this government any further … We will hold Stephen Harper to account and we will oppose his government.”

Liberal MP Bob Rae later said the party will present a motion of non-confidence at the first opportunity, which will come the first week of October.

That seemed to seal the fate of the government — and set the stage for a November election — given that the Tories would need the support of the NDP or Bloc Quebecois, both of whom have consistently voted against Harper.

But New Democrat MP Thomas Mulcair immediately offered an olive branch.

“What I’m saying is: the last thing Canadians want is a fourth general election in five years and we’d better have a bloody good reason for forcing a fourth general election in five years.

“So if Mr. Harper goes about being provocative as he has been in the past, going after key things that Canadians hold dearly like women’s rights and the environment, then we’ll throw him out of office because he’ll have provoked it.

“If, on the other hand, Stephen Harper comes into Parliament with a willingness to work in the public interest, then we’re going to take it on a case-by-case basis. Our caucus will decide.”

In Calgary, Harper spoke against an election.

“I haven’t met a single Canadian who’s saying they want to see an election right now,” he said.

“I think Canadians have been pretty clear they want Parliament to focus on the economy — that is what the government will be doing in the fall session.”

Canadians weren’t clamouring for an election last fall either when Harper ignored his own fixed-election date law and called a vote just before the country plunged into recession.

Ignatieff slammed Harper for presiding over the worst unemployment in two decades and plunging the Canada back into a huge deficit.

He also said the government has failed to meet four benchmarks he set in June.

“Mr. Harper … You’ve failed to protect the most vulnerable. You’ve failed to create jobs. You’ve failed to defend our health care. You’ve failed to produce a plan to restore our public finances.”

Ignatieff said a Liberal government has a “vision for rebuilding the Canadian economy,” including expanding trade with huge emerging markets in China and India.

And he promised a government that will bring Canadians together, rather than divide them.

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