Canada's Leader Harper Loses Historic No-Confidence Vote

Mar 25, 2011

Americans tend not to pay as much attention to Canadian affairs as they probably should.

So it will no doubt come as a surprise to many below the 49th Parallel that the Canadian government was in trouble.

That's actually putting it mildly. Canada's coalition minority government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper actually fell Friday, losing a historic no-confidence vote, requiring new elections that will likely be held May 2. It will be the fourth election in seven years.

Harper, leader of his nation's Conservative Party, is expected to be sticking around, however. Opinion polls indicate his party is likely to win a plurality of votes, allowing it to form another minority government.

For the entire time since he became prime minister in 2006, Harper has presided over a minority government formed by a coalition of several parties.

The no-confidence vote was only the fifth time in Canadian history extending back to 1867 in which a government failed to win a no-confidence vote. The vote was 156-145.

Despite Friday's vote, opinion polls suggest Harper's party will win the most support in the coming election though not a majority.

Harper's opponents accused him and other officials of withholding vital information about various programs from Parliament.

An excerpt from a CBC report that quotes Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff.

"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."

As is true with their neighbors to the south, Canadian politics are animated by concerns about the economy.

The Associated Press reports that the Harper may be hoping to win a majority based on the Canadian economy faring better relative to other Western economies.

An AP excerpt:

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

Canada has outperformed other major industrialized 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 percent.

"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.

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