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Canadian liberals aim to topple prime minister

TORONTO (AP) – Canada’s main opposition party vowed Tuesday to try to topple Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government at the first opportunity, which could force a fourth election in the last five years and the second in just a year.

Liberal opposition leader Michael Ignatieff’s announcement means the Conservative government could be toppled in a confidence vote if Canada’s two other opposition parties also vote to bring down the government.

“Mr. Harper, your time is up. The Liberal party cannot support this government any further,” Ignatieff said.

Harper now needs support from at least one of three opposition parties to stay in power. The Bloc Quebecois and New Democrats would have to do an about-face to back Harper.

The Liberals will have their first opportunity to present a motion of non-confidence in the first week of October. Liberal lawmaker Bob Rae later said the party would push for a vote at the first opportunity.

Harper’s Conservative Party was re-elected last fall with a strengthened minority government, but still must rely on the opposition to pass legislation and to stay in power.

The three opposition parties hold the majority of the seats in Parliament with 162, while the Conservatives have 143 and there is one independent.

New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton met Harper last month and reiterated that it would be the least likely party to prop up the Conservatives.

But New Democratic deputy leader Thomas Mulcair immediately offered an olive branch to Harper on Tuesday.

“What I’m saying is: the last thing Canadians want is a fourth general election in five years, and we’d better have a bloody good reason for forcing a fourth general election in five years,” Mulcair said. “So if Mr. Harper goes about being provocative as he has been in the past, going after key things that Canadians hold dearly – like women’s rights and the environment – then we’ll throw him out of office because he’ll have provoked it.

Conservative Transport Minister John Baird accused Ignatieff of putting his own interests ahead of Canadians.

Ignatieff, 62, left a prestigious post in 2005 as director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard to enter Canadian politics.