Canada PM Trudeau set to survive as key opposition party vows to avoid election

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government looked set to survive a confidence vote on Wednesday after a key opposition party said it would block any chance of an early election.

FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable

Legislators will vote later in the day on a motion from the Conservatives, Trudeau’s main rivals, to set up a committee to probe whether Ottawa handed contracts to friends as it battled the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.

Trudeau only won a minority of seats in the House of Commons in an election a year ago and needs the support of other legislators to survive. Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democrats, said his party would ensure Parliament kept working to help Canadians harmed by the pandemic.

“We will vote against an election,” he told a news conference but did not specify whether his party would oppose the Conservative motion or abstain.

Singh’s commitment should mean Canadians will be spared a snap election as winter approaches and the country faces a worsening second wave of coronavirus.

The creation of committees is usually a low-key affair, but Trudeau said the Conservative push showed the party had lost confidence in him and put his political survival on the line.

“The Conservatives must know that they cannot paralyze a government that is totally concentrated on people’s well-being,” Trudeau earlier told French-language public broadcaster Radio-Canada, insisting he did not want an election.

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The Liberals have more legislators than the combined forces of the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois, who will both vote against Trudeau.

Parliamentarians, most of whom are attending remotely, are due to start voting at around 3:15 p.m. ET (1915 GMT) with the final result due at around 4:30 p.m.

More than 70% of Canadians say they do not want a snap election during the pandemic, according an EKOS Research poll.

In polls, Canadians have given Trudeau’s Liberals mostly good marks for handling COVID-19, but the country has reported an average of 2,401 new cases per day over the past week, and the second wave is clouding the economic outlook. (Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/3kj12VH)

Liberals would win 35% public support and the Conservatives 31% if a vote were held today, a result which could produce another minority Liberal government, said Frank Graves, president of polling company EKOS Research.

“Canadians have too many other things on their mind and too many things they think the government should be focusing on,” Graves said by phone.

The Conservatives allege some of the more than C$200 billion ($152.5 billion) handed out in aid programs has been misspent.

In particular, they want to probe why the government awarded the contract to run a C$900 million student grant program to a charity that had paid Trudeau’s mother and brother for speaking engagements in previous years.

Trudeau has already apologized for taking part in a cabinet decision to use the charity, which pulled out of the program.

($1=1.3119 Canadian dollars)

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