CANADA

Canadian government toppled in vote of no confidence

Canadian opposition parties toppled the conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper (left) in a vote of no confidence on Friday, triggering what will be the country's fourth election in seven years.

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AFP - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was expected to ask the governor general Saturday to officially dissolve parliament and order new elections after the opposition toppled the country's government.

In an unprecedented move, a no-confidence motion, brought by the main opposition Liberal Party and backed by two other opposition parties, declared Harper's conservative government in contempt of parliament.

The vote sprang from a row over Harper's budget plans.

The motion, which passed by just 11 votes Friday -- 156 votes in favor to 145 against -- was the first time a Canadian government has been found in contempt of parliament.

"The vote today obviously disappoints me and will, I suspect, disappoint most Canadians," Harper said, after the separatist Bloc Quebecois and leftist New Democrats voted with the Liberals to oust his government.

He said he would ask Governor General David Johnston to send Canadians to the polls in early May.

In forcing yet another general election the opposition parties had scuttled a federal budget crucial to Canada's fragile economic recovery, he said.

"The economy has been and will continue to be the number one priority for me as prime minister and for all of the members of our Conservative government," he said.

"This is what Canadians expect of us in parliament, all of us."

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff had accused the government of having "stonewalled" parliament for four months on details of its core spending priorities, and of having broken election laws.

The Liberals also accused a minister of forging documents and misleading parliament.

Last week, an influential opposition-dominated committee recommended the government be held in contempt for failing to provide sufficient cost information on its plans for new prisons and fighter jets.

The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs voted that "the government's failure to produce documents constitute contempt of parliament" and that "this failure impedes the House in the performance of its functions."

The Conservatives objected that the committee's decision was "far more about politics than it is about trying to get information."

Following Friday's vote, Ignatieff declared a "historic" victory for democracy.

He accused the Tories of breaking Canada's election laws by overspending during the 2006 campaign, and said Harper had appointed as his top advisor a man who is now facing accusations for influence-peddling.

"This government is out of control and out of touch," he said. "It’s time for a change."

But the Tories go into election campaign leading in the opinion polls.

A poll conducted by Ekos and released on Friday by CBS television gives the Conservatives 35.3 percent support, to 28.1 percent for the Liberals and 14.2 percent for the New Democrats,

The latest Ipsos Reid survey for Postmedia News released on Thursday put support for the Conservatives at 43 percent -- enough for a technical majority in parliament -- against 24 percent for the Liberals.

The New Democrats and Bloc both trailed in that poll with 16 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

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