Canadian Lawmakers Vote To Dissolve Government, Call Elections

Canada's House of Commons voted 156-145 on Friday on a no-confidence resolution aimed at the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, triggering the dissolution of Parliament and elections in the next few weeks.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper defends the federal budget as he speaks with the media outside the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada on Wednesday March 23, 2011. Harper says he won't jump into an election; the opposition parties will have to push the government off the cliff. Asked whether he will ask the Governor General for the dissolution of Parliament and an election, he gave a flat no. Harper said the Liberals, NDP and Bloc, who have all pledged to vote against the budget handed down Tuesday, can still change their minds.It's official — the government has fallen from power, clearing the way for a spring election.

The opposition Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois came together Friday afternoon in a historic vote to say they no longer have confidence in the Conservative government.

After the vote, Speaker Peter Milliken addressed Stephen Harper as a member of Parliament rather than as prime minister when Harper rose to move the House adjourn. Conservative MPs left the House chamber quickly for a caucus meeting.

Harper later addressed reporters and said he would meet the Governor General on Saturday "to inform him of the situation and to take the only course of action that remains," referring to the disolution of Parliament and an immediate election campaign.

Harper began his remarks by saying that while Canada's economic recovery has been strong, the global economy is still fragile.

"The budget presented this week by the minister of finance, the next phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan, is critically important," Harper said.

"There's nothing — nothing — in the budget that the opposition could not or should not have supported. Unfortunately Mr. Ignatieff and his coalition partners, the NDP and the Bloc, had already decided they wanted to force an election instead," Harper said. "The fourth election in seven years. An election Canadians clearly don't want."

"Thus the vote today that disappoints me, will, I expect, disappoint Canadians," Harper said.

He did not take questions.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said the Harper government "conceals the facts" from CanadiansOpposition leaders react
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff addressed reporters after Harper.

"We've seen an historic moment in our democracy ... a prime minister condemned by the chamber for contempt," Ignatieff said. "He's lost the confidence of the House of Commons."

"Over 36 days we'll present an appeal to Canadians who don't just want to restrain him but replace him," Ignatieff said in reference to the campaign.

Ignatieff was repeatedly pressed by reporters to state "yes" or "no" to the question of whether he would seek to form a coalition government in the event of another Conservative minority, but he would only say he was focused on presenting a Liberal alternative to the Conservatives.

"If you vote for the NDP, if you vote for the Bloc, if you vote for the Greens, you will get more of this," Ignatieff said, gesturing back to the House chamber. "More contempt for democracy, more neglect of the priorities of Canadian families."

NDP Leader Jack Layton portrayed his party as the alternative to the Conservatives.

"New Democrats will be all across the country taking on the Conservatives, and we'll show that we're the only party capable of defeating the Conservatives coast to coast to coast," Layton said.

"Ottawa is clearly broken and this election is going to be about how we're going to fix it," Layton added.

Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said Harper "wanted an election and he got an election."

Speaker Peter Milliken speaks in the House of Commons shortly before opposition MPs united to vote down the government. The Speaker then adjourned the House, and an election call is expected Saturday.A historic vote
Only five other non-confidence votes have happened in Canada's history, according to information on the Library of Parliament website. This is the first time it has occurred because a majority of MPs voted that they believed the government was in contempt of Parliament.

Former Conservative — now Independent — MP Helena Guergis and independent MP André Arthur both voted against the Liberal motion. Liberal MP Keith Martin, who is not seeking re-election, was not in the House for the vote.

In the moments before the vote, many opposing MPs, including Harper and Ignatieff shook hands.

Ignatieff had kicked off debate earlier Friday, urging MPs to defeat the government.

"A government that breaks the rules and conceals the facts from the Canadian people does not deserve to remain in office," he said.

The motion said the House agrees with a Commons committee report tabled earlier this week that found the government in contempt of Parliament, "which is unprecedented in Canadian parliamentary history, and consequently the House has lost confidence in the Government."

Speaking for the Tories, Government House Leader John Baird said the opposition is ending the work of a Parliament that's gotten a lot done recently.

"The Liberal members over there claimed to have found that the government has done something wrong," Baird said. "What they aren't telling Canadians is that this was an opposition-stacked committee who used the tyranny of the majority to get the predetermined outcome they wanted."

Earlier this week, the procedure and House affairs committee tabled a report that said the government is in contempt of parliament for refusing to supply enough information on the cost of the F-35 fighter jets, their justice system reforms and their projections for corporate profits and tax rates.