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Resource Investor reports on Day 2 of the San Francisco gold show
By Rob Gillies
Monday, November 28, 2005
TORONTO -- A corruption scandal forced a vote of no-confidence
Monday that toppled Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority
government, triggering an unusual election campaign during the
Canada's three opposition parties, which control a majority in
Parliament, voted against Martin's government, claiming his Liberal
Party no longer has the moral authority to lead the nation.
The loss means an election for all 308 seats in the lower House of
Commons, likely on Jan. 23. Martin and his Cabinet would continue to
govern until then.
Opposition leaders last week called for the no-confidence vote after
Martin rejected their demands to dissolve Parliament in January and
hold early elections in February. Monday's vote follows a flurry of
spending announcements in Ottawa last week, with the government
trying to advance its agenda ahead of its demise.
Martin is expected to dissolve the House of Commons on Tuesday and
set a firm date for the elections. Under Canadian law, elections
must be held on a Monday -- unless it falls on a holiday -- and the
campaign period is sharply restricted.
"The vote in the House of Commons did not go our way," Martin
said. "But the decision of the future of our government will be made
by Canadians. They will judge us."
The Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper joined with the New
Democratic and Bloc Quebecois parties to bring down the government --
prompting the first Christmas and winter campaign in mostly
Christian Canada in 26 years. Recent polls have given the Liberals a
slight lead over the Conservatives, with the New Democrats in third
The same surveys suggest the Bloc Quebecois would sweep the French-
speaking province of Quebec, making a majority government unlikely
no matter which party wins the most seats.
Harper would become prime minister if the Conservatives receive the
most seats in Parliament. He favors tax cuts and opposed Martin's
successful bill to legalize same-sex marriage throughout Canada.
Martin has had frosty relations with the White House, standing by
the Liberal Party decision not to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
He also declined to join in Washington's continental ballistic
missile shield, infuriating the Bush administration, has been called
weak on terrorism, and was vocal in his opposition to high U.S.
tariffs on Canadian lumber.
His push to legalize gay marriage throughout Canada also raised the
hackles of Republicans south of the 49th parallel, but Martin is
widely respected worldwide for Canada's neutrality and open arms
toward immigrants and minorities.
Canada's Conservatives, by contrast, are seen as much more receptive
to improving relations with Washington, though a majority of
Canadians opposed the war in Iraq and the policies of President Bush.
"This is not just the end of a tired, directionless, scandal-plagued
government," Harper said after Monday's vote. "It's the start of a
bright new future for this country."
The opposition is banking on the public's disgust with a corruption
scandal involving the misuse of funds targeted for a national unity
program in Quebec.
An initial investigation absolved Martin of wrongdoing, but accused
senior Liberal members of taking kickbacks and misspending tens of
millions of dollars in public funds.
The government ran into peril this month when it lost the support of
the New Democratic Party, whose backing earlier this year helped
Martin escape a previous no-confidence motion by a single vote. New
Democrat leader Jack Layton said he had not received enough
assurances the Liberal Party would fight the increased use of
private health care in Canada.
Martin appears prepared to take his chances with a holiday campaign
and blamed his opponents for any inconvenience to the predominantly
The prime minister had promised to call an election within 30 days
of the release of a follow-up report on the corruption scandal. The
document is expected Feb. 1, which would have meant elections in the
first week of April, a time that suits Canadians better than the
bitterly cold and busy holiday season.
Although no formal agreement is in place, all the parties are likely
to agree to a pause in the campaign around the Christmas and New
Year holidays. The campaign is expected to start Tuesday, after
Parliament is dissolved.
Grace Skogstad, a political science professor at the University of
Toronto, said she believes Canadians will pay little attention to
the election until after the New Year, so Martin's opponents are
unlikely to face a backlash for forcing a holiday campaign.
"It's going to be those last three weeks after Jan. 1 that are going
to matter," said Skogstad, who believes the Liberals will win
another minority government. "For the Liberals, they are going to
try to put all the focus on the economy, which is doing phenomenally
Unemployment in Canada is at a 30-year low and Canada runs a budget
Andrew Stark, a political science professor at the University of
Toronto, also maintained that the campaign would not be decided
until the final days. Stark, however, believes the Conservatives
will win a minority government if Canadians view another Liberal and
New Democrat coalition as being unaccountable with tax money.
The last time a Canadian political campaign coincided with the
holiday season was in 1979, when Joe Clark's minority Conservative
government was toppled just weeks before Christmas. That vote was
delayed until February, however, when Pierre Trudeau and the
Liberals took back Parliament.
The latest collapse comes 17 months after an election that turned a
Liberal majority into a fragile minority on June 28, 2004.
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