Prime Minister Paul Martin, grappling with the Liberal government's worst crisis in a decade, promised on Thursday to call an election early next year once a probe into a cash-for-favor scandal is over.
But opposition parties, who seem likely to topple the minority government next month and trigger a June 27 election, reacted coolly to Martin's offer and questioned how long they could continue propping him up.
The inquiry is to issue its final report in mid-December and Martin promised in a rare national televised address to call an election within 30 days of its release.
The commission has heard startling allegations that Liberals in Quebec demanded big kickbacks in return for lucrative government contracts.
"I commit to you tonight that I will call a general election within 30 days of the publication of the commission's final report and recommendations," Martin told Canadians, acknowledging he could pay a price for having set up the probe in February 2004.
The official opposition Conservatives, who only last month kept the Liberals in power by not opposing their budget, said the ruling party was now "tarnished beyond redemption."
"I have some difficulty with a prime minister under a cloud picking his own election date," Conservative leader Stephen Harper told reporters, but said he had not taken a final decision on whether to try to bring down the government.