Canadian government falls after non-confidence vote

  • March 25, 2011

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has been defeated in the House of Commons on a non-confidence motion.OTTAWA - The House of Commons has found the Conservative government in contempt of Parliament in a non-confidence motion that has triggered a May election.

A Liberal motion passed by a vote of 156-145 Friday afternoon. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will now ask Gov. Gen. David Johnston to dissolve Parliament, sending Canadians to the polls for the fourth time in seven years.

The non-confidence vote derails a voter-friendly federal budget tabled on Mar. 22 that had proposed millions of dollars in new spending. It also kills more than 30 pieces of pending legislation, including Bill C-393 that is supported by Canadian bishops and aims to make affordable generic drugs available to the world's poor to treat illnesses such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Harper said he was disappointed by the defeat of his government because it heralds an election he maintains Canadians do not want. A federal election will cost taxpayers upwards of $300 million. Canada now faces its fifth election in little more than 10 years.

Recent polls indicate that Harper's Conservatives hold a 19-point lead over Michael Ignatieff's Liberals. Analysts do not expect that lead to hold up during a campaign but a slide in numbers would likely result in Canada's fourth minority government in a decade.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff introduced the motion by declaring "the Official Opposition has lost confidence in the government."

Ignatieff accused the government of failing Canadians by providing no leadership on such important issues as health care, child care and poverty. Rather than prudent social spending, Ignatieff said the Conservatives are earmarking billions of dollars on new war planes, prisons and tax breaks for Canadian corporations.

He has also attacked the government on issues of integrity, ethics and lack of accountability, largely as a result of a finding of a parliamentary committee that recommended that the government be found in contempt for failing to disclose the full costs of its crime legislation. Liberals have also slammed the Conservatives for a string of scandals related to breaches of election laws and insider lobbying by a former Tory adviser.

But any voter anger being directed at the Tories has not been reflected in recent polls. Harper's government is enjoying its largest lead in the polls since the Conservatives came to power. He will campaign on the economy and suggest a spring election could harm a still-fragile recovery from the recent recession.

Following the non-confidence vote, Harper said that despite strength in Canada's economic recovery, the global economy remains fragile.

"The budget presented this week by the minister of finance, the next phase of Canada's economic Action Plan, is critically important," Harper said. "There's nothing — nothing — in the budget that the opposition could not or should not have supported.

"Unfortunately Mr. Ignatieff and his coalition partners, the NDP and the Bloc, had already decided they wanted to force an election instead," Harper said. "The fourth election in seven years. An election Canadians clearly don't want.

"Thus the vote today that disappoints me, will, I expect, disappoint Canadians."

The Conservatives have suggested that Ignatieff's secret agenda is to try to orchestrate a coalition government in partnership with the NDP and Bloc in the likely event of another minority government. When pressed on that point yesterday, Ignatieff refused to give a yes or no answer.

The Conservatives, holding 143 seats, are 23 seats shy of an outright majority in the 308-seat House of Commons. The Liberals have 77 seats, the Bloc Quebecois 47, and the NDP 36. There are two independent MPs and three seats are vacant.


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