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NDP saves Liberals from 
non-confidence vote 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 7:30 p.m. May 2, 2005]

OTTAWA  — The Liberal government's deal with the NDP is already paying dividends.  

The Liberals were able to prevent the Conservatives from sending a motion of non-confidence to the floor of the House of Commons on Monday when an NDP MP on the public accounts committee sided with the Liberals and blocked the progress of the motion. 

The Conservative motion alleging "widespread and systematic corruption at the highest levels of the Liberal government" and demanding the government "immediately resign" was defeated by a vote of 6-5. 

NDP MP David Christopherson said he voted against the motion as part of an agreement reached between his leader, Jack Layton, and Prime Minister Paul Martin last week. 

Under that agreement, the NDP agreed not to support opposition motions of non-confidence until the budget implementation bill received Royal Assent in the senate. In exchange, the Liberals added $4.6 billion in new social spending to the bill and removed a tax cut for large corporations. 

"I will be voting against the non-confidence motion to ensure this new budget gets through the House," Christopherson told the committee. 

Christopherson added that he wasn't saying that the allegations of Liberal corruption were okay, but that they could be dealt with at a later date. 

The defeat of the public accounts committee non-confidence motion kills one of three arrows in the quiver the Conservatives had in place to defeat the government on a non-confidence measure in the coming weeks. 

There still exists the possibility the Tories could put a non-confidence motion to a vote in the House on May 19 in an opposition day they secured using a concurrence motion from a House procedure committee. 

However, the Conservatives' other option also came under attack on Monday when Government House Leader Tony Valeri sought to have the Speaker of the House of Commons rule another concurrence motion that's on the floor of the House out of order. 

Two weeks ago, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper amended a report from the finance committee to recommend the government resign. 

The finance committee's report was based on recommendations to the federal budget that passed in the House earlier this year. 

Valeri argued that because the budget had been passed before the motion came to the floor, debate on the motion was not in order. 

"The House has already approved the budgetary policy of the government and the leader of the opposition cannot reopen a question that has already been determined by the House," Valeri said. 

"Any motion questioning that judgment should be ruled out of order." 

Conservative House Leader Jay Hill said Valeri was showing how the Liberals want to avoid being  "held accountable in any way, shape or form in this chamber."

Speaker Peter Milliken reserved ruling on whether Harper's motion was out of order. 

The earliest the motion could be voted on would be May 18, according to some Conservatives. 

Even if the motion is allowed to go forward, it is not certain whether the it will pass. 

The Liberals currently have the support of 151 MPs, including the NDP and independent Carolyn Parrish, while the Tories and the Bloc have a combined 153 votes. 

The two remaining independents have not made a final decision, but at least one, Chuck Cadman, appears to be leaning towards avoiding an election. David Kilgour said Monday he would wait before deciding which way to vote. 

However, if the two independents side with the government that would result in a tie, which would be broken in favour of the government by the Speaker. 

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