PM seeks to shut Parliament

KATHLEEN HARRIS, NATIONAL BUREAU CHIEF

, Last Updated: 12:06 PM ET

OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper is set to shut down Parliament in a last-ditch bid to fend off a constitutional crisis and the defeat of his government.

Sources told Sun Media the government will ask Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean tomorrow to prorogue Parliament until the new year.

Jean, who is cutting short a four-country European trip to deal with the domestic political crisis, is not expected to use the rarely exercised power to refuse the PM's request.

The crisis reached fever pitch yesterday, as Harper accused Stephane Dion of selling out to the separatists to win power.

The PM warned of a looming unity crisis if the pact supported by the Bloc Quebecois was permitted to proceed.

As new Tory ads blitzed radio waves and websites, Tory MPs hollered "Traitor!" and "Shame on you!" at Dion in the House of Commons for forging what they called a "separatist coalition."

"This deal that the leader of the Liberal Party has made with the separatists is a betrayal of the voters of this country, a betrayal of the best interests of our economy, a betrayal of the best interests of our country, and we will fight it with every means that we have," Harper said.

An angry Dion accused Harper of "lies" and said the coalition is good for national unity. "My fellow Quebecers who believe in separation are more likely to be reconciled with Canada if we work with them than if we marginalize them," he said.

One of the most raucous sessions in recent memory ended with a Tory chorus of O Canada in the government lobby. Minutes later, Duceppe was at the microphone saying he'll continue to work in the best interests of sovereignty.

"(NDP Leader Jack) Layton and Dion won't change. They're federalists and I'm a sovereigntist," he said. "I think every gain we're making here is good for Quebec, and what's good for Quebec is good for a sovereign Quebec."

Harper was to face a vote of non-confidence Monday, but the prorogation will delay a potential defeat of his government until late January.

Insisting he is only delaying the inevitable, Layton slammed Harper for turning the issue into a unity crisis.

"He was prepared to work with Mr. Duceppe before. He in fact survived as a government with the support of Mr. Duceppe before and never made these observations," he said.

Earlier in the day, a senior aide to the PM briefed reporters on the government's plan to use "every legal means" at its disposal to stop the coalition. Brandishing the covers of major daily newspapers --including Sun Media's bold No! No! No! headline -- he said public opinion is on the side of the Conservatives.

The Tories will continue to try and divide the coalition parties, and to rally support through public protests, online petitions and radio ads. The prime minister could also give a televised address to the nation later this week.

Meanwhile, Liberal Party president Doug Ferguson launched a "grassroots call to action" to rally support for the coalition.


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