JNN 25 Mar 2011 : The Canadian opposition narrowly toppled the conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper Friday accusing it of abuse of power, and triggering the fourth elections in seven years.
A motion, brought by the main opposition Liberal Party and backed by two other opposition parties, declared the government was in contempt of parliament and had lost its confidence in a row centered on Harper’s budget plans.
The motion passed by just 11 votes, with 156 votes in favor to 145 against. It is the first time that a Canadian government has been found in contempt of parliament.
“The vote today obviously disappoints me and will, I suspect, disappoint most Canadians,” Harper said, after the separatist Bloc Quebecois and leftist New Democrats voted with the Liberals to oust his government.
He said he would ask Governor General David Johnston on Saturday to officially dissolve parliament and send Canadians to the polls in early May.
In forcing yet another general election the opposition parties had scuttled a federal budget crucial to Canada’s fragile economic recovery, he said.
“The economy has been and will continue to be the number one priority for me as prime minister and for all of the members of our Conservative government. This is what Canadians expect of us in parliament, all of us,” he said.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff had accused the government of having “stonewalled” parliament for four months on details of its core spending priorities, as well as breaking election laws.
The Liberals also accused a minister of forging documents and misleading parliament.
Last week a key panel, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, dominated by opposition MPs, recommended the government be held in contempt for failing to provide sufficient cost information on its plans for new prisons and fighter jets.
The committee voted that “the government’s failure to produce documents constitute contempt of parliament” and that “this failure impedes the House in the performance of its functions.”
The Conservatives countered the committee’s decision was “far more about politics than it is about trying to get information.”
Following Friday’s vote, Ignatieff declared a “historic” victory for democracy.
He also accused the Tories of breaking Canada’s election laws by overspending during the 2006 campaign, and said Harper had appointed as his top advisor a man who is now facing accusations for influence-peddling.
“This government is out of control and out of touch,” he said. “It?s time for a change.”
But going into elections, the Tories lead in the public opinion polls.
The latest Ipsos Reid survey for Postmedia News released on Thursday showed support for the Conservatives was at 43 percent — enough for a technical majority in parliament — versus 24 percent for the Liberals.
The New Democrats and Bloc both trailed with 16 percent and 10 percent support, respectively.