Harper government topples on contempt motion, triggering May election

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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Ottawa — The federal Conservative government has been brought down on a historic vote in Parliament, setting the stage for a May election.

MPs voted 156-145 in favour of a Liberal motion today citing Stephen Harper’s minority Tories for contempt of Parliament and expressing non-confidence in the government.

Harper is set to visit the Governor General’s residence Saturday morning to dissolve the 40th Parliament and sound the starting gun on an election campaign. It will be the fourth election in seven years.

The contempt charge marks a first for a national government anywhere in the Commonwealth.

The Bloc Quebecois and the NDP both supported the Liberal non-confidence motion, fuelling angry Conservative denunciations of a “reckless” and “undemocratic” coalition.

But Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says there can be no more profound cause for an election than the protection of democracy.

Commons Speaker Peter Milliken and an opposition-dominated committee had already found a case for contempt, and the Liberals ensured that would be the trigger for the defeat of the government 29 months after the last election.

The opposition parties wasted no time pounding home their campaign message, slamming the prime minister as a secretive leader who abuses power and leads a government plagued by scandal.

In the past month, the Conservative party and four of its top officials have been charged with election overspending and two RCMP investigations have been launched against former political staffers.

Ignatieff kicked off debate on the confidence motion this morning, accusing Harper of subverting democracy.

“You have spoken, Mr. Speaker. The committee has spoken, and now the House must speak with a clear voice,” Ignatieff told the Commons.

“And it must say that a government that breaks the rules and conceals facts from the Canadian people does not deserve to remain in office.”

Ignatieff acknowledged that some Canadians are questioning the need for another election.

“We did not seek an election,” he said. “But if we need one to replace a government that doesn’t respect democracy with one that does, I can’t think of a more necessary election.”

John Baird, the Conservative House leader, responded that he was “saddened” by the premature end to Canada’s 40th Parliament.

That end is coming, said Baird, “because of the reckless actions of the Liberal, Bloc Quebecois and NDP coalition in forcing an unwanted an unnecessary election on Canadians.”

Harper is expected to campaign on this week’s federal budget which was laden with tightly targeted tax credits and riding-specific goodies, while simultaneously accusing his opponents of plotting to form a coalition government if he fails to win a majority.

The NDP said the budget fails to deliver real relief to beleaguered seniors, understaffed health-care systems, and middle-class Canadians burdened by home heating fuel taxes.

NDP Leader Jack Layton was still imploring the government to rewrite it’s budget as late as Friday morning’s final question period in the House.

“They’re just plain stubborn,” said Layton. “Why are Conservatives intent on provoking an election?”

Prospective voters have been bombarded with $26 million worth of feel-good Economic Action Plan ads over the past 11 weeks and bureaucrats were directed late last year to start using the “Harper Government” in place of Government of Canada on departmental news releases.

Taxpayer-funded ads from the Finance Department warned of the “fragile” nature of the economic recovery, and Baird alluded to the threat again in the Commons.

“It’s a vote that will weaken Canada’s economic recovery,” he said of the Liberal motion.

The government’s economic message, however, appears to be taking a backseat to its dire warnings of a Liberal-led coalition threat.

Ignatieff has tried to polarize the coming election into a two-party fight between Harper Conservatives and those who oppose them — between “a blue door and a red door.”

Conservatives are trying to convince Canadians otherwise.

“Lurking behind the red door are socialists and separatists plotting for cabinet seats!” thundered MP Dean Del Mastro in the Commons.

The alarmist Conservative talk was scoffed at by Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, who has pointedly noted that Harper proposed defeating Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government on its throne speech in 2004 and replacing it, with NDP and Bloc backing.

Duceppe revelled in the details this week, describing the Delta Hotel on Maissonneuve Boulevard in Montreal where Harper convened the conspirators.

“He was coming in my office saying, ’If Martin is going to lose confidence, what do you want in the throne speech? What would you like in the budget?”’ Duceppe recalled.

Ignatieff attempted to inoculate himself Friday against the nasty, brutish and short election campaign that appears likely in light of recent inflamed rhetoric from all sides of the House.

“Enough of the politics of fear,” he said. “Enough of the politics of division. Enough of the politics of personal destruction. Enough is enough.”

Organizations: Commonwealth.The Bloc Quebecois, NDP

Geographic location: OTTAWA

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Recent comments

  • J
    April 20, 2011 - 12:05

    I think that if we can;t get at least 60% of eligible canadians to vote then the vote should not count and things should stay the same. That would shake them up. After all, we only got 58% of the volters the last time. its because NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE POLITICAL PLAYPEN ANYMORE Actually to be honest, we need a full sweeping change. Get rid of Harper, Iggy and Jack. Shake up the box and then see who falls out. BUT keep those three out of the race.

  • Frank Blackwood
    March 30, 2011 - 18:08

    I think Canadians accepted the budget with the understanding that the economy was in such a mess, and still is. Unfortunately, it was the contempt of Parliament that brought down the government, not the budget. We are seeing a lot of pre-election goodies handed out now that were not mentioned in the budget. I think the big corporations will see that Stephen Harper is re-elected. I have worked so hard on supporting the senior citizens across this country, and finally something will be done if the Liberals become the next governing body? I don't think Prime Minister Harper has any future plans to help senior citizens living below the poverty line. Its just enough to buy an extra cup of coffee and some fries at Tim Hortons, if you are lucky.

  • JAMES
    March 26, 2011 - 12:22

    did anyone ever consider, that maybe the conservatives setup the trap and wanted this election all along. with 43% in support and surging what a better way to trap the mice. FANTASTIC ! my predition, conservatives will win 3 seats in my home province and roll across the country to a MAJORITY GOVERNMENT !

  • mb
    March 26, 2011 - 06:41

    It's about time. Here's hoping Harper gets a majority this time; coalition governments don't work in Canada as our politicians are too childish. As for democracy, that's almost a forgotten concept till the opposition needs to use it to get votes.

  • John Gardner
    March 26, 2011 - 04:55

    I don't know why Harper authorized bombings in Liyba when he wants to govern the same way.

  • Wayne
    March 25, 2011 - 21:28

    The Liberal Party should have gotten rid of Michael Ignatieff before they bought down the Government as he will hurt them big time. I can see a Conservative mayority on the horizon.

    • ITL
      March 27, 2011 - 09:26

      Finally a chance to get rid of Harper. We teach our children that it is wrong to lie and bully others, so why is it ok for Harper. We need to send a message to him and his fellow bullies that his behaviour isn't appreciated. It's start hard to get a doctor in Clarenville and there still aren't enough jobs, but Harper wants ot spend $30 billion dollars on jets. We could build 7 new refinieries with that, 6 Hibernia projects, or make the TCH a dvided hightway 10 times.

  • SWNFLDEHOB
    March 25, 2011 - 19:47

    I don't like Ignatieff, but, he's right. I know no one care about the state of Canadian democracy, but too much power in is the Prime Minister's Office.

  • Starr
    March 25, 2011 - 16:50

    What is fantastic about the news Kate? You have been brain-danny'd! PM Harper has done an amazing job - when there was recession all around us, Canada never did go into full-blown recession because of his good leadership and integrity!! Keep that in mind!!

    • Ian
      March 27, 2011 - 09:29

      We didn't have a recession because Conservative and Liberal governments over the years have built a strong banking system, and demand for commodities which Canada, and Newfoundland produce, stayed high

  • Bill
    March 25, 2011 - 15:16

    Mr. harper begins the campaign by making a statement and refusing questions. His arrogance should be noted by all Canadians, it has been a trademark of his Government. He has been found in contempt of Parliament, yet refuses to admit that there is anything to discuss in this country other than the economy. Let's hope the voters send him a clear message that his tactics have no place in the Parliament of this country.

  • Kate
    March 25, 2011 - 14:33

    This is way overdue, but fantastic news nonetheless.

    • sylvia
      March 25, 2011 - 19:27

      so what happens if the Canadian people elected another Minority PC Government? Do we keep having elections until the Liberals, NDP and Bloc get what they want? Is that not then disregarding what the voters have declared with electing who they want....