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Motions recommending Liberals 
resign passes 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 8:30 p.m. May 10, 2005]

OTTAWA  — The minority Liberal government lost a vote in the House of Commons Tuesday evening that the Bloc Quebecois and the Conservatives say is a non-confidence vote that should trigger an election. 

The motion, which was an amendment to a report from the public accounts committee recommending the government resign, passed in the House 153 to 150. 

The Liberals, however, are arguing that the motion is not a vote of non-confidence, but rather a procedural motion recommending the motion be sent back to committee.

All 153 Bloc and Conservative MPs were in the House and voted in favour of it. Two Liberal cabinet ministers -- Irwin Cotler and John Efford -- skipped the vote due to personal issues and Independent MP Chuck Cadman was unable to make it as he is recovering in B.C. from cancer therapy.

After the vote passed in the House, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper rose and challenged Prime Minister Paul Martin.  

"I would challenge the prime minister if he believes he has the constitutional authority to govern to rise in this place and call for a vote of confidence if he believes he has it from this House."

The Speaker ruled the challenge out of order and Martin did not test the confidence of the House. 

After the vote, the prime minister made a statement in English and French to reporters outside of the Chamber, but did not take questions.

"The fact is this was a procedural motion, sending a report to a committee. A procedural motion, according to the expert opinion, is not a vote of confidence or lack thereof," he said.

Martin cited four academics who he said backed this opinion.

Meanwhile, Harper, who also did not take questions, suggested a crisis was taking place on Parliament Hill and told reporters that Martin's behaviour was "unconstitutional."

"We have in office a corrupt party, which is in the process of ruining this country's finances which is now ignoring the democratic will of the House of Commons," Harper said. "It does not have the constitutional authority to govern this country because it will not seek the confidence of the House.

"I think this is a serious situation. Mr. Martin's behaviour has gone from dithering to desperate and now to dangerous. And this is a very serious situation."

Harper said the Conservatives would take "additional steps" on Wednesday but would not elaborate on what those steps were before leaving the scrum. 

Conservative House leader Jay Hill was the most matter of fact in his reaction to the vote. 

"Parliament is over after tonight," he said. "It's done."

When asked if that meant the Conservatives would not show up in the House on Wednesday, Hill said, "There's a chance that just about anything could happen."

Bloc Quebecois Gilles Duceppe vowed his party would keep finding ways to remove Martin from power. 

However, Duceppe said he is more committed to the removal of the Liberals following the revelations at the Gomery inquiry earlier in the day when a Liberal organizer testified that he handed out $120,000 in cash to Liberal candidates during the 1997 federal election campaign. 

"This is a government and a party that accepts corruption," he said. "Paul Martin does not have the qualifications to be the prime minister (or) neither the values."

The atmosphere on Parliament Hill was electric on the Hill early as dozens of reporters were gathered outside the House watching the vote on a monitor. 

The non-confidence vote also attracted some unfamiliar faces to Parliament Hill, including a crew from the U.S. Fox News Channel.

: Related Links

> Harper motion a non-confidence motion: Broadbent

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