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Canadian Government Falls on No-Confidence

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051129/ap_on_re_ca/canada_elections Canadian Government Falls on No-Confidence By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Writer 24 minutes
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 28, 2005
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      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
      its demise.

      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
      President Bush.

      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
      tax money.

      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.
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