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Martin survives 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 8:30 p.m. May 19, 2005]

OTTAWA  — Four weeks ago, Prime Minister Paul Martin looked like he was going to have to face the voters. 

With his party sinking in the polls, the Conservatives put forward a motion in the Commons public accounts committee asking his government to resign. 

Martin had to go on national television and beg Canadians not to judge his government until after Justice John Gomery filed his report on the sponsorship scandal.

On Thursday evening, Martin pulled out a minor miracle having survived the first government-approved, non-confidence motion by the narrowest of margins - a tie in the House of Commons broken by the speaker. 

"The government has the confidence of the House. I believe that is very important on our part and on the part of the opposition that we now make this Parliament work in the way that Canadians want it to," Martin said to reporters after exiting the House of Commons. 

When the story is written about how Martin pulled this Houdini act off, three players will be given an assist. NDP Leader Jack Layton and his 19-member caucus who agreed to prop up Martin's government in exchange for $4.5 billion in new social spending, Conservative turncoat Belinda Stronach who ran for the leadership of the Conservatives just over a year ago and Chuck Cadman an independent MP from B.C. who received a raucous ovation from the Liberal benches when he rose to vote in favour of the NDP budget. 

Cadman, who did not reveal his decision until he voted on live television, was swarmed by reporters exited the chamber. 

He said he voted to keep the government in power because he wanted to wait until he received more information from Justice John Gomery's inquiry into the sponsorship scandal.

But Cadman made no guarantee that he would support the government in any upcoming confidence motion during the remainder of the session. 

"It's not over. I don't think so," he said. "I'm just going to have to wait and see and this is going to go vote by vote."

Down the hall from the chamber, the Conservatives, who failed to topple the government, rallied around Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. 

"Tonight's vote is an unfortunate result for this country at the moment," said Harper.

"We may have lost tonight's battle, but we've done it to win the war."

The Liberal caucus also held a special meeting where they chanted "Four more years" as Martin entered the room.

Martin delivered one of his most energetic speeches in recent memory, which sounded more like an election victory speech than a speech by a man who won by the narrowest of margins. 

"That was the longest 45 minutes of my life," Martin began with some relief. 

As MPs ended their special post-vote caucus meetings and strolled out of the Parliament buildings they were greeted by a crowd of over 100 people who had dropped by to be part of the much-hyped vote. 

Recognizable MPs from both the Liberals and Conservatives received applause mixed with mild heckling as they walked out of the MPs entrance of the Parliament buildings. 

The loudest round of applause was for Human Resources Minister Belinda Stronach, who had crossed the floor to join the Liberals just two days before the vote. 

"Way to go, Belinda," one young woman shouted as Stronach stepped into her cabinet limo. 

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