“That the House agree with the finding of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs that the government is in contempt of Parliament, which is unprecedented in Canadian parliamentary history, and consequently, the House has lost confidence in the government.”
With that motion, backed by the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Québécois, Canada’s minority Conservative government came to a much-discussed, much-anticipated conclusion today. Introduced by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, the motion came on the heels of a finding by a House of Commons committee that the Harper government was in contempt of Parliament for its failure to fully disclose the costs of various spending items pertaining to its crime bill. It was an historic rebuke: while individuals have been found in contempt of Parliament before, no government in its entirety has prior to this month.
“Which party do you trust with the democratic institutions of our country?” asked Ignatieff vehemently during Question Period this morning. It was a theme the oppostion parties returned to over and over again, part of what is expected to be an election strategy of focusing on Harper’s inclination to a closed-door, exclusionary approach to governance.
The vote on today’s confidence motion was 156–145. Harper is expected to ask Governor General David Johnston to formally dissolve Parliament tomorrow, with the election most likely taking place on May 2.
Stephen Harper, addressing the media in the wake of the downfall of his government, condemned the opposition parties for their unwillingness to back his budget, saying that “there was nothing, absolutely nothing, in the budget that the opposition could not or should not have supported.” He likewise criticized the opposition for forcing an election “that Canadians clearly do not want.” He confirmed that he will meet with the governor general tomorrow, and did not take any questions from the press.
Following immediately after Harper, Ignatieff took to the mics, saying of Harper: “He continues to show his contempt for democracy by not even mentioning [that his government was condemned for contempt of Parliament] when speaking today…This tells you all you need to know about this man.”