Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Canada's government falls on no-confidence vote

From The Globe and Mail:

The short-lived 38th Parliament met its demise on Monday night, setting the stage for the longest election campaigns in two decades, as the Liberal government was defeated in a no-confidence vote at the hands of all three opposition parties and the country was launched into official election mode.

The Liberals lost the vote in the House of Commons 133 to 171, beginning a series of events that will propel voters toward the ballot boxes, likely on Jan. 23.

Prime Minister Paul Martin will officially call a federal election on Tuesday.

Martin was leading a minority government -- that is, the Liberal Party had only a minority of seats in the House of Commons, and it was really only a matter of time before the opposition parties, led by the Conservatives, would force a new election by voting down the government in a no-confidence vote. The Liberals have been in power since 1993, after all, and they've been tarnished by allegations of corruption (see my post on the Gomery Report here).

And now? A January election and a campaign running through Christmas:

Mr. Martin said he will visit Governor-General Michäelle Jean at 9:30 EST on Tuesday morning and ask her to dissolve the government, triggering an immediate election campaign likely to run 56 days with a likely hiatus over Christmas. That would mean one of the longest campaigns in recent history. This would also be only other election to run over the Christmas holidays besides the campaign in 1979-80 when former Conservative leader Joe Clark's party was toppled in a budget vote.

And what do the polls say? The Liberals are ahead, but not by much:

[The] Liberals enter an election campaign six percentage points ahead of the Conservatives, but losing ground in Ontario and facing an increased desire for a change of government, a new poll shows...

The poll, conducted between Thursday and Sunday, found that 35 per cent of Canadians would vote Liberal if an election were held today, compared with 29 per cent for the Conservatives and 17 per cent for the [left-wing] NDP...

The numbers have not changed much since the June 28, 2004, election, which produced a Liberal minority government.

Don't count out the Liberals, however. They run an incredible electoral machine, and they may very well surprise on the upside, securing a majority government or at least sustaining their current standing in the House of Commons. But the Conservatives, based largely in the West, are making inroads in Ontario, Canada's heartland and the key to winning a national election. Martin has spent the past couple of weeks handing out billions of dollars in pre-election spending, but he's not a great campaigner and there just isn't much pro-Liberal passion in the electorate. Indeed, it seems rather that the electorate is exhausted after so many years of Liberal rule.

It may be far too early for a prediction, but I think we're headed for yet another Liberal minority government.

For better and for worse.

Note: Keep checking back for regular updates through the campaign period. I may even try to bring in a few guest bloggers to add their expertise.

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