Sunday, March 27, 2011

Canadian government collapses in no-confidence vote

Canadian opposition parties have brought down the government of Stephen Harper in a vote of no confidence, triggering an election that polls suggest will reinstate the status quo of minority rule by his Conservative party.

The opposition parties held the prime minister in contempt of parliament in a 156-145 vote for failing to disclose the full financial details of his tougher crime legislation, corporate tax cuts and plans to purchase stealth fighter jets.

Opinion polls expect Harper's Conservative party to be re-elected but not with a majority, meaning he could only continue governing dependent on opposition votes.

The opposition parties combined hold the majority of the seats in parliament with 160 while the Conservatives have 143. There is a chance the left-of-centre parties might join forces in a coalition if Harper wins another minority government on the expected election date of 2 May.
On Saturday Harper will ask the governor general, David Johnston, to call Canada's fourth election in seven years.

"The vote today, which obviously disappoints, will I suspect disappoint most Canadians," Harper said.

Harper might be gambling that an election will confound conventional wisdom and hand him the majority in parliament that has eluded him through his five years as prime minister. He is counting on the economy to help him win re-election.

Canada has outperformed other major industrialised democracies through the financial crisis, recovering almost all jobs lost during the recession while its banking sector remains intact. It avoided a property crash and most economists expect 2010 growth to come in at 3%.

"By forcing an unnecessary election in this time of fragile economic recovery, Michael Ignatieff and his coalition partners are irresponsibly and recklessly putting at risk Canadians' jobs, our economy and stable government," Harper said.

The opposition tried to form a coalition before, after Harper won minority re-election in 2008. But before he could be defeated in a no confidence vote Harper shut down parliament for three months and successfully whipped up public opposition against the coalition. The Conservatives accused the Liberals of treason for uniting with the Bloc Quebecois, a party that seeks independence for Canada's French-speaking province of Quebec.

Fourth election in seven years will take place in May after opposition parties bring down Stephen Harper government.