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May 10, 2005
Parliament Votes For Gov't To Resign; Grits Defiant

Stephen Harper tabled his no-confidence amendment this afternoon after much debate as to whether it constituted a legal demand for dissolution, and won a narrow 153-150 vote as the NDP could not rescue Paul Martin and the Liberals. However, the Liberals still refuse to recognize the amendment's mandate for new elections:

In what was a Parliamentary squeaker, the Conservatives teamed up with the Bloc Quebecois, to defeat the Liberals who were backed by the NDP and two Independents by a vote of 153 to 150.

Opposition members rose to their feet and broke into applause after House Speaker Peter Milliken announced the results.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper rose and accused the Prime Minister of clinging to power "at all costs." ...

But the Liberals insist the vote holds no such power.

Seeking to clarify confusion over the consequences of the Conservative motion, the Liberals convened an emergency press conference earlier on Tuesday.

Addressing reporters in Ottawa, Valeri said the controversial motion is not one on which his party is willing to stake its future.

"The motion in no way asks the House to speak to its confidence in the government," Valeri said, insisting that it is merely procedural.

That procedural motion still lost, exposing the tenuous nature of Martin's grip on power. Two seriously ill Conservative MPs answered Harper's call and flew in for the vote after the motion was ruled in order by the Speaker. Two Liberals and one independent could not attend the vote, meaning that if the Liberals can convince independent Chuck Cadman to support the current government in a subsequent vote, they can still hold onto power through the summer.

The Liberals did sound a more conciliatory theme. They offered to restore some opposition days to the calendar at the end of the month, allowing the Tories and BQ to table a pure no-confidence vote then rather than now. However, that would force summer elections, which all parties have shied away from endorsing up to now.

The issue will likely go to the Governor-General, but having Ms. Clarkson rule in Harper's favor will be a long shot. Clearly the Commons has expressed a failure of confidence in the minority government of Martin, but if the motion has any procedural weakness, she will be more likely to play it safe and demand a regular motion rather than the amendment to the public accounts committee report they passed tonight. In the meantime, the move puts Martin back on the defensive, explaining to Canadians why he refuses to hold elections after losing on any motion that explicitly states a failure of confidence.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 10, 2005 6:45 PM

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