WINNIPEG - The Liberal-NDP coalition should get a chance to govern if the Conservatives are defeated in the House of Commons, former governor general Ed Schreyer said Wednesday.

Schreyer also spoke out against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's expected move to avoid a confidence vote -- shutting down Parliament for several weeks to bide for time.

"Any group that presumes to act as government must face and receive periodically the support and confidence of Parliament, and if it is somehow avoided or evaded, then clearly the will of Parliament is being thwarted and frustrated, and that cannot be tolerated for long," Schreyer said.

"Because it's December, one can say `well, maybe (we can prorogue for) even the Christmas season' ... but anything beyond that is really a major, major effort at evasion and avoidance."

Schreyer, a former NDP premier of Manitoba, served as governor general between 1979 and 1985. He was in office when Joe Clark's short-lived Tory government was defeated in 1979.

Schreyer then called a general election at Clark's request, but says he waited to see if the opposition would put forward an alternative.

"I did insist on waiting for several hours, so that in the event ... that a workable alternative was to be communicated to me, confirmed to me in writing, I would still not have crossed the bridge (and called an election)," he said.

Harper is expected to forestall his imminent defeat by asking Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to prorogue Parliament. That would end this session and allow Harper to start anew with a throne speech at the end of January.

However, this would only defer the confidence vote.

If the government falls, Jean would then have to decide if the coalition formed by the Liberals and NDP, with support from the Bloc Quebecois, offers a stable, viable alternative government.

Schreyer said the answer would be clear.

"If she is given something serious -- a solemn, formal, official written statement or undertaking by what is or purports to be a viable working combination that enjoys the confidence of a majority in Parliament, then the Governor General's search comes to an end and a commission to form a government is granted," Schreyer said.

"There are all kinds of precedents for this."