Canadian Government Falls on No-Confidence
Canadian Government Falls on No-Confidence
By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Writer 24 minutes ago
TORONTO - A corruption scandal forced a vote of
no-confidence Monday that toppled Prime Minister Paul
Martin's minority government, triggering an unusual
election campaign during the Christmas holidays.
Canada's three opposition parties, which control a
majority in Parliament, voted against Martin's
government, claiming his Liberal Party no longer has
the moral authority to lead the nation.
The loss means an election for all 308 seats in the
lower House of Commons, likely on Jan. 23. Martin and
his Cabinet would continue to govern until then.
Opposition leaders last week called for the
no-confidence vote after Martin rejected their demands
to dissolve Parliament in January and hold early
elections in February. Monday's vote follows a flurry
of spending announcements in Ottawa last week, with
the government trying to advance its agenda ahead of
Martin is expected to dissolve the House of Commons on
Tuesday and set a firm date for the elections. Under
Canadian law, elections must be held on a Monday
unless it falls on a holiday and the campaign period
is sharply restricted.
The Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper joined
with the New Democratic and Bloc Quebecois parties to
bring down the government prompting the first
Christmas and winter campaign in mostly Christian
Canada in 26 years. Recent polls have given the
Liberals a slight lead over the Conservatives, with
the New Democrats in third place.
The same surveys suggest the Bloc Quebecois would
sweep the French-speaking province of Quebec, making a
majority government unlikely no matter which party
wins the most seats.
Harper would become prime minister if the
Conservatives receive the most seats in Parliament. He
favors tax cuts and opposed Martin's successful bill
to legalize same-sex marriage throughout Canada.
Martin has had frosty relations with the White House,
standing by the Liberal Party decision not to support
the U.S. invasion of
Iraq. He also declined to join in Washington's
continental ballistic missile shield, infuriating the
Bush administration, has been called weak on
terrorism, and was vocal in his opposition of high
U.S. tariffs on Canadian lumber.
His push to legalize gay marriage throughout Canada
also raised the hackles of Republicans south of the
49th parallel, but Martin is widely respected
worldwide for Canada's neutrality and open arms toward
immigrants and minorities.
Canada's Conservatives, by contrast, are seen as much
more receptive to improving relations with Washington,
though a majority of Canadians opposed the war in Iraq
and the policies of
The opposition is banking on the public's disgust with
a corruption scandal involving the misuse of funds
targeted for a national unity program in Quebec.
An initial investigation absolved Martin of
wrongdoing, but accused senior Liberal members of
taking kickbacks and misspending tens of millions of
dollars in public funds.
The government ran into peril this month when it lost
the support of the New Democratic Party, whose backing
earlier this year helped Martin escape a previous
no-confidence motion by a single vote. New Democrat
leader Jack Layton said he had not received enough
assurances the Liberal Party would fight the increased
use of private health care in Canada.
Martin appears prepared to take his chances with a
holiday campaign and blamed his opponents for any
inconvenience to the predominantly Christian
The prime minister had promised to call an election
within 30 days of the release of a follow-up report on
the corruption scandal. The document is expected Feb.
1, which would have meant elections in the first week
of April, a time that suits Canadians better than the
bitterly cold and busy holiday season.
Although no formal agreement is in place, all the
parties are likely to agree to a pause in the campaign
around the Christmas and New Year holidays. The
campaign is expected to start Tuesday, after
Parliament is dissolved.
Grace Skogstad, a political science professor at the
University of Toronto, said she believes Canadians
will pay little attention to the election until after
the New Year, so Martin's opponents are unlikely to
face a backlash for forcing a holiday campaign.
"It's going to be those last three weeks after Jan. 1
that are going to matter," said Skogstad, who believes
the Liberals will win another minority government.
"For the Liberals, they are going to try to put all
the focus on the economy, which is doing phenomenally
Unemployment in Canada is at a 30-year low and Canada
runs a budget surplus.
Andrew Stark, a political science professor at the
University of Toronto, also maintained that the
campaign would not be decided until the final days.
Stark, however, believed the Conservatives will win a
minority government if Canadians view another Liberal
and New Democrat coalition as being unaccountable with
The last time a Canadian political campaign coincided
with the holiday season was in 1979, when Joe Clark's
minority Conservative government was toppled just
weeks before Christmas. That vote was delayed until
February, however, when Pierre Trudeau and the
Liberals took back Parliament.
The latest collapse comes 17 months after an election
that turned a Liberal majority into a fragile minority
on June 28, 2004.