Toronto: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government was toppled by opposition after Parliament passed a no-confidence vote and the country appeared headed for elections in May, the fourth in seven years.
The snap polls was forced following the passage of the no-confidence vote against the minority government engineered by the opposition Liberal Party and backed by two other opposition parties, on the heels of a historic contempt of Parliament charge. It is for the first time a Canadian government would be held in contempt.
Harper (52) prepared to meet Governor General David Johnston to recommend dissolving the 40th Parliament and following that, an election will be held after a minimum 36 days of campaigning.
The contempt charge marks a first for a national government anywhere in the Commonwealth.
The election is expected to take place on May 2 and the Conservatives are thought likely to retain power. Having led two minority governments, Harper is hoping this time his party will win a majority at the ballot box.
The opposition parties on Friday voted 156-145 in favour of a Liberal motion, a move that stemmed from a ruling on Monday that the minority government was in contempt of parliament. The Conservative Party holds 145 seats in the dissolving parliament, short by 10 seats in the 308-member House.
The contempt charge marks a first for a national government anywhere in the Commonwealth. "The vote 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.
Harper said he and Conservative MPs would remain focused on nurturing Canada's economic recovery. “Our priority will remain to ensure stability and security for Canadians, in what remain extremely challenging global circumstances,” he added.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff (63) said, “With this motion, we ask the House to find the government in contempt, and to withdraw the confidence of the House.”
He accused the government of having “stonewalled” the Parliament for four months on details of its core spending priorities, as well as breaking election laws, and a former senior Tory staff of influence peddling.
The Liberals also accused a minister of forging documents and misleading Parliament.
“Canadians have had enough. This House has had enough,” Ignatieff said, listing gripes: “Abuse of power... the largest deficit in Canadian history... and, finally, the first government in Canadian history to face a vote of contempt in the Canadian Parliament, a government out of touch and out of control.”
“It is time for a change,” said Ignatieff, a historian, writer and political commentator.
“We want to form an alternative to the Harper government that respects democracy, that respects our institutions, that respects Canadian citizens,” Ignatieff added.
The state of the recovering Canadian economy, along with ethics and accountability, are expected to be the main election issues, he adds.
The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, dominated by opposition MPs, last week recommended the government be held in contempt for failing to provide sufficient 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.”