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Opposition puts forward non-confidence motion, Martin to address the nation 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 7:40 p.m. April 20, 2005]

OTTAWA  — Events in Ottawa continued to move rapidly Wednesday, as opposition MPs appear to be positioning themselves for a spring election.

At the public accounts committee, a Conservative MP put forward a notice of motion that could lead to a non-binding, non-confidence vote as early as May 3 and the Prime Minister's Office announced Prime Minister Paul Martin will make a televised address to Canadians about "the sponsorship program and the current situation in Parliament."

Martin's move to address the nation is being made optional for the television networks. 

A prime minister delivering an address to the country is a rare occasion and usually comes in times of national crisis.

The last time that happened in Canada was days before the 1995 Quebec referendum when both then prime minister Jean Chretien and then opposition leader Lucien Bouchard made arguments for and against Quebec separation. 

Public Works Minister Scott Brison said Martin has "an important and direct message" he wants to take to Canadians and wants to use a televised address to avoid "the filter of the opposition."

NDP Leader Jack Layton accused Martin of trying to act in "some sort of presidential fashion."

And Conservative MP Peter MacKay said the Conservatives are considering requesting equal time should the networks grant Martin a platform to convey his message.

"It shows that desperation is truly setting in at the PMO," said MacKay.

"Holding a national crisis type address tomorrow? This isn't a national crisis. This is a Paul Martin Liberal party crisis he's dealing with."

The Martin government has been in tailspin for two weeks now since the stunning allegations of Liberal organizers receiving kickbacks in return for sponsorship contracts were made at the Gomery inquiry by Groupaction president Jean Brault. 

Since then the party's support has fallen as much as 11 points in some polls for major media organizations.

Another blow was delivered this week at the public accounts committee. 

Liberal strategist and Chretien loyalist Warren Kinsella made numerous accusations regarding Martin and his closest confidants steering contracts to the firm Earnscliffe, which has been the place of business for numerous of his strongest supporters over the years. 

Kinsella's testimony couldn't have come at a worst time for Martin.

The prime minister has come under constant attack in question period in recent weeks. On Wednesday, he returned to face questions about Earnscliffe for the first time since Kinsella's appearance at the public accounts committee.

"Will the Prime Minister now admit his knowledge and involvement in the contracting practices of his department that funnelled taxpayers' money through Earnscliffe to finance his leadership activity?" asked Conservative MP Peter MacKay.

"What the honourable member omitted to say is every single penny that I raised in the leadership race has been fully disclosed," said the PM. "It is all in the public record. The question is, since I have fully disclosed, why has the leader of the opposition and the (MacKay) not made full disclosure of their leadership funds?"

But shortly after surviving another scandal-centred question period, the Liberals parliamentary life met a new  threat down the hall at the public accounts committee. 

A Conservative MP on the committee put forward a notice of motion of non-confidence that could be voted on in the House as early as the first week of May. 

The motion will come forward to committee on Monday, May 2. If passed by the opposition parties, which control the committee, it would then be sent to Parliament where it could voted on in the House as early as May 3. 

The motion reads: "There appears to be widespread and systematic corruption at the highest levels of the Liberal government, spanning many years, and now that has all been revealed at the Gomery commission, this report to the House that in its opinion, the government should immediately resign," 

The Conservatives made the move in response to an action this week by Government House Tony Valeri, who cancelled a Conservative opposition day where the party could forward a motion of non-confidence. 

"We are going to make use of every parliamentary procedural tool made available to us to hold this government to account," said Conservative House Leader Jay Hill. "We want to have this motion of non-confidence in place and should we choose to pull the trigger we will at the appropriate time."

: Related Links

> Concerned about a confidence vote, Liberals postpone opposition day

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