The Conservative government fell last Friday afternoon, setting the stage for an early May election.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff introduced the motion of non-confidence in Parliament early Friday, which also charged the government with being in contempt of Parliament. The citation for contempt of Parliament was the first of a Commonwealth country’s government.
“I have to inform the House that the official opposition has lost confidence in the government. Today with this motion, we ask the House to do the same, to find the government in contempt and to withdraw the confidence of the House,” said Ignatieff, addressing the House.
The vote passed 156 to 145, ending Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s five-year minority government. Pressure has mounted on the Conservatives in recent months, as opposition parties have condemned the federal government for its management of the economy, its secrecy, and misuse of cabinet confidence.
Earlier last week, a committee of MPs handed the Conservative government Canada’s first-ever contempt ruling as a result of the government’s refusal to publicize the full cost of legislation regarding corporate tax cuts, proposed crime legislation and F-35 fighter jets. This helped pave the way for the motion introduced by Ignatieff on Friday.
After the motion, Harper moved to adjourn Parliament. In a press release shortly after the vote, Harper expressed his disappointment.
“There was nothing in the Budget that the Opposition could not or should not have supported,” he said. “Unfortunately, Mr. Ignatieff and his coalition partners in the NDP and Bloc Quebecois made abundantly clear that they had already decided they wanted an election instead, Canada’s fourth election in seven years, an election Canadians had told them clearly that they did not want.”
In his speech to the House, Ignatieff stated that the Harper government had forced the Liberals’ hand on the matter.
“To those who say an election is unnecessary, we reply we did not seek an election. But if we need one to replace a government that doesn’t respect democracy with one that does, I can’t think of a more necessary election.”