TORONTO – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper condemned an opposition plan to gain power by ousting his government in a confidence vote, calling the effort undemocratic.
Harper, speaking Wednesday in a televised address, vowed to use "every legal means" to stop the legislative move to unseat his minority Conservative government next week and replace it with an opposition-led coalition.
The embattled Conservative leader was responding to three parties that have united against his handling of the Canadian economy, saying he has failed to deal with the global meltdown.
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 will visit the governor general Thursday at 9:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) to discuss the political crisis, but his statement didn't elaborate further.
Opposition Liberal leader Stephane Dion said a suspension of Parliament would only delay the inevitable. Dion urged Jean in a letter Wednesday to reject Harper's request, arguing it would prolong the crisis and exacerbate the country's economic difficulties.
If the plan succeeds, it would be the first time that 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 cannot 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 Democrats.
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 Although that proposal was withdrawn, the opposition has continued to seek his ouster.
"The Harper Conservatives have lost the confidence of the majority of members of the House of Commons," Dion said in a televised address of his own. "In our democracy, in our parliamentary system, in our constitution this means that they have lost the right to govern."
Jean holds a mostly ceremonial position but it will be up to her to decide whether to grant any Harper request to suspend Parliament. The decision could force the second national election in two months, lead to an opposition coalition taking power, or result in a suspension of Parliament until next month.
Harper's Conservative Party was re-elected Oct. 14 with a strengthened minority government, but still must rely on the opposition to pass legislation.
Constitutional scholar and Queen's University political scientist Ned Franks said "there is no precedent whatsoever in Canada" for the opposition taking power via a confidence vote without an election. "We are in uncharted territory."
Franks said that if a request to suspend Parliament is rejected, Harper would be faced with either stepping down or waiting until he's defeated in the vote.
The Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois, which together control a majority of Parliament's 308 seats, signed a pact agreeing to vote this coming Monday to oust Harper and setting the structure for their proposed coalition government.
The Conservatives are pursuing a public relations campaign that includes rallies across the country and radio ads saying power should be earned and not taken.