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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 22:14 GMT 23:14 UK
Canada Liberals send PM lifeline
Stephane Dion
Mr Dion said his party would act "in the national interest"
Canada's opposition Liberal Party has thrown a lifeline to the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, saying it will not force early snap elections.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion said his party would not reject the minority Conservative government's policy agenda ahead of a series of confidence votes.

Tuesday night's speech offered MPs a vote on military involvement in Afghanistan and outlined tax cuts.

The opposition NDP and Bloc Quebecois said they would oppose the agenda.

The Conservatives, who hold only 126 seats in the 308-seat parliament, needed the support of at least one of the three main opposition parties to see the vote through.

'Make parliament work'

The speech will be voted on three times, with the first vote expected on Thursday night, a second on Monday and the final vote on 24 October.

Canadian PM Stephen Harper
Conservatives: 126
Liberals: 96
Bloc Quebecois: 49
New Democrats: 30
Independent: 3
Total: 308 (including 4 vacant seats)

Mr Dion told the House of Commons his party would do everything it could to "make this parliament work".

"We will not make the government fall on its throne speech, which would cause a third general election in four years, something Canadians have clearly shown they do not want," Mr Dion said.

He said he would propose amendments to Mr Harper's agenda but, if they were rejected, his party would abstain from the confidence votes in the national interest.

Mr Dion does not enjoy uniform party support, and recent opinion polls have given the Conservatives a substantial lead over the Liberals.

His party suffered a by-election defeat last month in a traditionally safe seat.

The "throne speech" was given by Governor-General Michaelle Jean - who represents Queen Elizabeth, the head of state - a tradition under the Commonwealth country's parliamentary system.

The government promised a parliamentary vote on any extension of the military mission in Afghanistan, currently set to end in February 2009.

It also announced that Canada would not be able to meet its targets under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, as its greenhouse gas emissions are 33% above its commitment.

The government also outlined multi-year tax cuts for individuals and businesses and a 1% cut in the national sales tax.

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