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MPs pass motion calling for early election

[PoliticsWatch Updated 7:20 p.m. November 21, 2005]

OTTAWA  — The Christmas election is one step closer.  

The NDP, the Bloc Quebecois and the Conservatives all teamed up against the governing Liberals Monday evening and used their majority in the House to vote 167 to 129 in favour of an NDP motion requesting Prime Minister Paul Martin call an election in early January. 

The unique motion put forward by NDP Leader Jack Layton is a Canadian first as the opposition parties basically tried to set the election date. 

The motion is non-binding and was instantly rejected by the government. 

"Our hope is the prime minister will listen to Parliament," Layton said after the vote. 

"We felt that Mr. Martin shouldn't exclusively establish a date when his own party is judged by Canadians for the ethical issues Judge Gomery pointed out."

Layton said if Martin ignores the non-binding motion he is ignoring the majority of MPs in the House who represent 63 per cent of Canadians who voted in the last federal election. 

Monday night's vote was a just formality that everyone in Ottawa knew would be rejected by the government weeks ago when Layton first proposed it. 

The entire reason for Layton's motion is for the opposition parties to avoid blame for an election campaign that will run through the holiday season. In effect, the motion allows them to argue that the PM had an option and could have delayed the vote to the first week of January, but decided to ignore the wishes of the House. 

The real vote will happen on Monday, November 28, when Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's non-confidence motion is expected to be passed by the three opposition parties. Harper said if Martin agrees to a January election call between now and Thursday, he will not table the motion. 

"This I think makes an election inevitable but does gives the prime minister a choice to avoid a Christmas election," Harper said of election motion passed Monday evening. 

"It's clear where the opposition is heading if (Martin) is not willing to listen anybody else."

Harper said Martin's decision to ignore the motion is an example of Liberal "arrogance." He said the only reason Martin is ignoring Layton's proposal is because it is not a Liberal proposal. 

Next week's  vote is binding and will force the prime minister to visit the Governor General and set an election date for January 9 or later. 

The defeat of the government, however, will kill the supplementary estimates. 

Today, the government admitted that it could use "special warrants" to pass a number of initiatives, such as pay raises for the military and increased benefits for seniors, that were included in the estimates. 

Those changes can only be done to existing programs and must be approved by the House when it reconvenes after an election. 

The government had argued in previous weeks that such initiatives would be die and people wouldn't receive those benefits if the government was defeated before the estimates were passed. 

The opposition parties and the government, meanwhile, moved to get four bills through the House on Monday. 

The House passed four bills that were fast tracked on Monday afternoon, including Bill C-66, a bill designed to provide energy rebates to low-income families to cope with rising fuel costs this winter. 

C-66 is a money bill and a matter of confidence, Valeri happily pointed out after the bill passed. 

"The House itself has expressed confidence in the government once again this afternoon," Valeri said. 

Valeri said he bring forward another confidence vote on Wednesday afternoon when the government holds a vote on a ways and means motion that would put into effect retroactive tax reductions Finance Minister Ralph Goodale introduced in the mini-budget unveiled last week. 

The motion is expected to pass because it has the support of the NDP and the Bloc. 

In effect, the ways and means motion will see at least two opposition parties vote confidence in the government on Wednesday then debate a motion of non-confidence put forward by the Conservatives on Thursday. 

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