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New Leader of Canada's Liberal Party says ready to form coalition
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08:30, December 11, 2008

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The new leader of Canada's Liberal Party Michael Ignatieff said on Wednesday that he is ready to vote out the ruling Conservatives and enter into a governing coalition if the government budget to be tabled next month is not in the country's best interest.

Ignatieff, 61, was selected as the interim leader of Canada's biggest opposition group on Wednesday afternoon, after former leader Stephane Dion resigned on Monday.

The party is facing a showdown with the Conservative government in late January when the latter will table a federal budget, which is a confidence matter. The Conservatives avoided a collapse in a non-confidence vote originally scheduled for Monday, after the Governor General approved to prorogue Parliament.

"I told caucus I will vote non-confidence in this government. I am prepared to enter into a coalition government if that is what the Governor General asks me to do," Ignatieff said during a news conference in Ottawa.

To protest against the government's economic policy, the Liberals have agreed to form a coalition with the leftist New Democratic Party (NDP), with the support of the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

Ignatieff blamed Prime Minister Stephen Harper for unleashing a "parliamentary crisis" by failing to address the economic slowdown in the fall update.

"You cannot run a minority Parliament with divisive, spiteful and unproductive policies we saw in that autumn statement. He's got to walk back down the hill," he said. "If he does, my party has never failed to exercise leadership in the national interest."

Ignatieff was nominated after his rival Bob Rae withdrew from the leadership race on Tuesday, as the party expedited the process amid the latest political crisis. He will have to be confirmed as the permanent leader at an all-member convention in May in Vancouver.

With academic positions at Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and the University of Toronto, Ignatieff is a renowned intellectual, writer and historian. He spent most of his time abroad before returning to Canada in 2005, with his latest post being the director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy since 2000.


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