OTTAWA -- Stephen Harper prepared for an all-or-nothing meeting with the Governor General by telling Canadians in an extraordinary televised appeal that the opposition coalition poised to topple his government represents a threat to the economy -- and democracy.

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OTTAWA -- Stephen Harper prepared for an all-or-nothing meeting with the Governor General by telling Canadians in an extraordinary televised appeal that the opposition coalition poised to topple his government represents a threat to the economy -- and democracy.

The prime minister will visit Michaëlle Jean this morning. He's expected to ask her to suspend Parliament until January so he can avoid a confidence vote Monday and hang onto his job long enough to present a budget.

Harper dropped his angry demeanour of recent days as he hit the airwaves Wednesday night. But he repeated his vow to use "every legal means at our disposal" to block the opposition from taking power from his Conservatives.

He admitted no errors in political judgment. Nor did he offer any new measures -- such as moving up the date of the budget to deal with the economic crisis -- to placate the opposition

Harper condemned the Liberal-NDP coalition, which is backed by the Bloc Québécois, as a dangerous deal with the separatists -- the same separatists he flirted with four years ago.

He gave nearly identical four-minute speeches in English and French, with the exception that he referred to the Bloc as "separatists" in English and "sovereigntists" in French, a term preferred by Quebecers.

The prime minister told voters the opposition is trying to take power "without your say, without your consent, and without your vote."

"At a time like this, a coalition with the separatists cannot help Canada," he said from behind a desk flanked by two Canadian flags.

"And the opposition does not have the democratic right to impose a coalition with the separatists they promised voters would never happen."

In fact, every constitutional expert has said the coalition is legal and legitimate.

"I think the attack on democracy is the mob rule that Harper is appealing to," said Ned Franks, professor emeritus at Queen's University and one of the country's most respected constitutional scholars.

"(He's) saying that the way people cast their votes isn't the way they should have cast them, and that the government doesn't need the confidence of the House of Commons... I think that's the real attack on democracy."

Opposition MPs have assailed Harper for what they called a desperate ploy to cling to power despite the fact that proroguing Parliament would preclude any major spending at a time of economic crisis.

And they point out that Harper signed a letter with the separatist Bloc in 2004 asking the governor general to consider letting the opposition govern should the Liberal government of Paul Martin fall.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's pre-taped response to Harper aired several minutes late, it's up-close and off-focus framing reminiscent of a YouTube video next to the prime minister's crisp presentation.

"Stephen Harper still refuses to propose measures to stimulate the Canadian economy," he said. "His mini-budget last week demonstrated that his priority is partisanship and settling ideological scores.

"The Harper Conservatives have lost the confidence of the majority of members of the House of Commons. In our democracy, in our parliamentary system, in our Constitution, this means that they have lost the right to govern."

NDP Leader Jack Layton was on the air next to reinforce that point.

"Mr. Harper delivered a partisan attack... Now he's trying to turn an economic crisis into a political one. But Stephen Harper has broken trust with the Canadian people."

Harper took pains to emphasize that he is working on the economy, outlining several measures the government is taking, including consulting premiers and international partners. But he said new economic initiatives will wait until the federal budget Jan. 27.

Dion insisted Harper must go because of his failure to focus on the economy.

"We offer a better way. We say settle it now and let's get to work on the people's business. A vote is scheduled for next Monday. Let it proceed. And let us all show maturity in accepting the result with grace and the larger task of serving Canadians in mind."

Dion sent a letter to Jean on Wednesday urging her to reject any attempt by Harper to prorogue Parliament.

Catcalls filled the House of Commons for a third straight day as Dion accused Harper of trying to save his political skin at the expense of allowing Parliament to focus on the economy.

"Why does the prime minister care more about his own job than allowing Parliament to save the jobs of Canadians?"

Harper shot back that Dion could help save those jobs by co-operating with the teetering Conservatives.

-- The Canadian Press