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Harper No-Confidence Vote Topples Canadian Government

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (File)
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (File)

Canadian opposition parties have toppled the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Lawmakers voted 156 to 45 to end Mr. Harper's five-year minority government. The action Friday set the stage for Canada's fourth election in seven years, possibly on May 2.

In calling for the no-confidence vote, the opposition parties alleged that Mr. Harper was in contempt of parliament for failure to fully disclose financial details of his anti-crime legislation, corporate tax cuts and plans to buy 65 American-made stealth fighter jets.

The leader of the main opposition Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff, said that after five years of Conservative rule, in his words, "it is time to say enough is enough." He said a party that conceals facts does not deserve to remain in office.

The Conservatives accused their opponents of "political and partisan games" in calling for the no-confidence vote. Mr. Harper has said that a new election could harm the country's economic recovery, although Canada has rebounded from the global recession more quickly than some other industrialized nations.

No-confidence votes are rare in the Canadian parliament, with Friday's vote only the sixth such vote in the last 144 years.

Opinion polls show that a plurality of Canadian voters still favor the Conservatives.  But if the three left-of-center parties -- the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois -- again control a majority of seats in parliament, they could attempt to form a coalition government.  If Mr. Harper's Conservatives control a plurality of seats, he could again seek to form a minority government.

The opposition parties tried to form a coalition government in 2008, but Mr. Harper thwarted the effort by shutting down parliament for three months. He then won public support against the idea of creating a coalition government.

During the political maneuvering three years ago, the Conservatives accused the Liberals of treason for aligning with the Bloc Quebecois, a party that seeks independence for the French-speaking province of Quebec.

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