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Canada election risk shrinks after policy speech

Canada’s minority Conservative government promised tax cuts and a crackdown on crime on Tuesday in a policy address that will likely garner enough opposition support to avoid an early election.

The Liberal opposition said it would provide a formal response on Wednesday, but one key official said there appeared to be nothing in the speech that would prevent the Liberals from supporting it.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, bolstered by recent polls and aware that the Liberals are in disarray, included policies on climate change and the combat mission in Afghanistan that the opposition parties do not like.

The two smallest parties immediately said they would vote against the speech and Liberal leader Stephane Dion said there were serious deficiencies in it.

But, tellingly, Dion said: “The priority of Canadians is that this Parliament works and there is not a third election in 3-1/2 years.” Canadians went to the polls in June 2004 and again in January 2006, when the minority Conservative government was elected.

The Liberal caucus will review the speech on Wednesday morning but a Liberal official said: “There’s no poison pill in that speech at all.”

Opposition Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe told reporters, before the speech was even finished, that Harper had not responded to any of his requests. He had demanded a pullout date for the Afghanistan mission and respect for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

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