Official campaigning begins ahead of May 2 vote

Canada's parliament was dissolved and a new round of campaigning began on Saturday, a day after a vote of no-confidence toppled Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government and paved the way for the country's fourth election in seven years on May 2.


AFP - Canada's governor general dissolved parliament on Saturday after a vote of no-confidence in Tory Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government, setting up a fourth election in seven years.

From the steps of the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II's representative in Canada, Harper announced the official launch of the campaign, which culminates in elections on May 2.

Wasting no time in wooing votes, he immediately contrasted his Conservatives' economic recovery plan with the prospects of opposition parties forming a leftist coalition.

"I have met with Governor General David Johnston and he has agreed to dissolve Parliament," Harper said.

"On May 2 we will choose between a stable national government or a reckless coalition, between a low-tax plan for jobs and growth or a high-tax agenda that will stall our recovery," he said.

In an unprecedented move, the main opposition Liberals backed by two other opposition parties on Friday had voted no confidence in Harper's minority government and declared it in contempt of parliament.

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

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

Since 2006, Harper has led back-to-back minority governments always teetering on the brink of collapse, its relations with opposition parties becoming increasingly acrimonious recently.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff accused the government of having "stonewalled" parliament over the past 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 parliamentary 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, saying the committee's decision was "far more about politics than it is about trying to get information."

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

Over the next 35 days, Harper must convince Canadians to elect only 12 more Tory MPs to form a majority government, building on the 143 of the 308 seats in Parliament the Tories had prior to its dissolution.

The Tories maintained an early lead in the latest public opinion polls as the election kicked off, but the opposition parties also came out of the gate swinging.


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