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Canada's leader decries ouster effort

A 3-party coalition wants to replace Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.

TORONTO - Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday condemned an opposition plan to oust his government in a confidence vote next week, calling the effort a threat to Canada's economy and democracy.

Harper, in a televised address, vowed to use "every legal means" to stop the opposition from replacing his minority Conservative government with an opposition-led coalition.

The beleaguered Conservative leader was responding to three parties that have united against his handling of the economy, saying he had failed to present a plan for dealing with the global economic crisis.

A cabinet minister has suggested that Harper would ask Governor General Michaelle Jean to suspend Parliament until next month, giving him needed time to develop a stimulus package.

Harper said later that he would visit Jean today to discuss the political crisis, but his statement did not elaborate.

Opposition Liberal leader Stephane Dion said a suspension of Parliament would only delay the inevitable. Dion urged Jean in a letter yesterday to reject Harper's request, arguing that it would prolong a parliamentary crisis and exacerbate Canada's economic difficulties.

If successful, it would be the first time a Canadian government has been ousted in a confidence vote and replaced by an opposition coalition without an intervening election.

"The opposition does not have the democratic right to impose a coalition," Harper told the nation in a taped address from his office in Parliament. "The opposition is attempting to impose this deal without your say, without your consent, and without your vote. This is no time for backroom deals."

Harper said it was a pivotal moment in Canada's history, a time of global economic instability when Canada's government must stand unequivocally for keeping the country together. He said the government could not enter into a power-sharing coalition with a separatist party, referring to the Bloc Quebecois from the French-speaking province of Quebec. The bloc is backing a coalition led by the Liberals and the New Democratic Party.

Harper's Conservative Party was reelected Oct. 14 with a strengthened minority government.

The move against him was also fueled by a proposal to scrap public subsidies for political parties, something the opposition groups rely on more than the Conservatives.

Although that proposal was scrapped, the opposition has continued to seek Harper's ouster, saying he had lost the trust and confidence of the 308-seat Parliament.

Jean, the representative of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, holds a mostly ceremonial position, but it will be her decision whether to suspend Parliament.