TORONTO - The new leader of Canada's once-dominant Liberal Party said Wednesday he will topple Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government next month if it does not present a federal budget that addresses the country's economic crisis.
Michael Ignatieff, a former Harvard University professor, made the remark shortly after being named interim leader for the main opposition party.
Ignatieff could become Canada's next prime minister if the Liberals and two left-of-center opposition parties stick with a plan to vote out Harper's government and are allowed to form a coalition government in late January. The opposition bloc holds a majority in Parliament.
Ignatieff said it will all depend on what is in next month's federal budget, suggesting the Liberals would be appeased by a significant economic stimulus package.
"I'm prepared to vote no-confidence in this government if the government does not present a budget in the national interest," Ignatieff said. "It's up to Mr. Harper to prepare a budget that will adequately deal with the crisis we're facing."
Harper reached out to Ignatieff on Tuesday in hopes of heading off a renewed ouster effort. He said he hopes the new Liberal leader will meet with him and put forward economic stimulus proposals for the government to consider.
"It's a little late to reach out, but I'm the kind of leader that wants to put the national interest first," Ignatieff said.
Governor General Michaelle Jean, who is the representative of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, holds a mostly ceremonial position but will decide what happens if Harper is ousted. She allowed Harper to suspend Parliament last week in an unprecedented move to avoid a no-confidence vote that had been planned for Monday.
If the opposition does topple Harper, constitutional experts have speculated Jean would probably allow the opposition to form a government rather than call new elections since parliamentary elections were just held Oct. 14.
The Liberals, New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois united against Harper earlier this month after he announced a plan to scrap political subsidies for political parties, something the opposition groups rely on far more than the Conservatives. Although that proposal was withdrawn, the opposition has continued to seek Harper's ouster, saying he has no stimulus plan to protect Canada from the global financial crisis.
Harper's Conservatives won the Oct. 14 election but they didn't win the majority of Parliament's 308 seats and must rely on the opposition to pass budgets and legislation.
The Liberal party's national executive official declared Ignatieff leader Wednesday and he is expected to be acclaimed permanent leader at a party convention in May.
Stephane Dion stepped down as Liberal leader earlier than expected after an opposition effort to topple Harper failed last week.