Monday, November 28, 2005

MPs topple Liberal government, trigger election

MPs topple Liberal government, trigger election

The opposition parties banded together Monday to defeat the Liberal minority government and set the stage for an election that is expected to culminate in a mid-January vote.
Paul Martin gives a thumbs-up as he receives applause in the House of Commons.

In a 171 to 133 vote, the House passed a historic no-confidence motion exactly one year and five months after Canadian voters elected the Liberals.

Prime Minister Paul Martin will now have to go see Governor General Michaëlle Jean Tuesday morning and ask her to dissolve Parliament.

As the vote was conducted, parliamentarians stood up to applaud MPs who will not be running in the next election.

* INDEPTH: Divided Parliament

The Liberal defeat marks the first time a government has fallen on a straight motion of no-confidence in Parliament.

Other minority governments have been forced into elections after losing budget votes or censure motions interpreted as loss of confidence.

Last week, Opposition leader Stephen Harper officially tabled the motion of no-confidence which read: "That this House has lost confidence in the government."

The Liberals have 133 seats, followed by the Conservatives with 98, the Bloc Québécois with 53 and the NDP with 18. There are four seats held by Independents and two are vacant.

According to a poll conducted by Environics Research for the CBC, 35 per cent of decided voters said they would vote Liberal. The Conservatives came in at 30 per cent and the NDP was picked by 20 per cent.

* RELATED STORY: Canadians want majority, expect minority: poll

With a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20, the poll puts the Liberals and Conservatives at a virtual dead heat.

Federal elections have to be held on a Monday and the campaigns have to be at least 36 days long. Martin is expected to call for a slightly longer campaign, setting the vote for mid-January, either the 16th or the 23rd, with an agreement among the parties to take a holiday break and stop campaigning between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3.

An eight-week campaign would be the longest the country has seen in two decades.

The last time a government fell at the hands of the opposition was Joe Clark's Conservative government in 1979.

Monday's vote means a number of bills will die on the order paper, among them an act to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and an animal cruelty bill.


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