Canadian government survives confidence test

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OTTAWA, Oct 24 (Reuters) Canada's minority Conservative government won final parliamentary approval of its new policy platform today, making it most likely that it will not have to face elections until at least next year.

The government survived the last of three confidence votes on the platform, sustained by an opposition Liberal Party which is faltering in public opinion polls and abstained on the vote as promised.

The Conservatives, elected in January 2006, were thus able to pass the platform over the objections of the two smallest parties in Parliament. If the platform had been defeated, Canada would have been thrust into a new election.

The platform promises new tax cuts and a crackdown on crime and says the Kyoto targets on greenhouse gases emissions are impossible for Canada to meet.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion has said that he opposes the general direction of the government but that Canadians do not want what would have been the third election in 3-1/2 years.

He also made it clear earlier today that if there were a vote on a budget measure this autumn, his party would again ensure the government's survival.

''We know that Canadians don't want elections and we'll continue to do our role as official opposition, explaining why we disagree with the government,'' he said.

''If Canadians didn't want an election last week ... I don't really think that they will want an election next week.'' He was responding to questions about the possibility of the government introducing a cut of 1 percentage point in the federal sales tax when it presents its fall fiscal update in the next few weeks. Dion says the sales tax is the wrong tax to cut.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters late on Tuesday that the fiscal update would present a picture of government revenues, spending, surplus and debt payments, but declined to be specific about what would be in the update.

Reuters AK VP0335

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