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December 1, 2008

Liberals, NDP and Bloc sign pact

CANADA - NDP Leader Jack Layton and Liberal Leader Stephane Dion have signed an historic accord to form a coalition government to replace Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. This could be the first step towards Uniting the Canadian Left.

On Parliament Hill late this afternoon, Dion and Layton signed a formal deal to work together through to June, 2011. Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe also signed an agreement that commits the separatist party to support the coalition through to June, 2010.

That means Canada will have a stable working government for the next 1.5 years, with a possible extension to be discussed in June 2010.

In the Coalition Liberal leader Dion will serve as prime minister, but their plan to assume government still requires the blessing of the Governor General. Its currently expected Michaelle Jean will support the new Coalition government.

Under the deal, the Liberal caucus would be responsible for choosing the finance minister, a key role as the country faces economic storms. Jack Layton said the coalition would move with an economic stimulus package that is "prompt and prudent" and that he would support it.

That plan includes infrastructure spending, home construction, renovations and financial support for "struggling sectors" that can demonstrate a viable business plan.

The NDP would get six positions in the 24-member cabinet as well as six parliamentary secretary positions.

Dion will serve as leader until a Liberal leadership convention in May. Liberals Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc, all candidates for the party leadership, appeared together to show support for the decision. Its possible they may decide to call off the election.

Duceppe said his party would not introduce any non-confidence motions or vote against any budgets or speeches from the throne until the ageement expires but would be free to vote as it wishes on any other legislation.

Conservatives appeared stunned by the turn of events, even as the coalition was confirmed.

Harper is being encouraged to accept his looming defeat "gracefully" and not make moves that create "further instability and delay." At present Harper seems to be going out like a squealing pig.

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