After a decade of minority governments and back to back elections it hardly seems like news that the federal government has once again collapsed and Canadians need to prepare to go to the polls once more.
While the stage is now set for another election in May, the vote of non-confidence that ended Canada’s 40th parliament today was a historic one. Rather than taking the opportunity to bring down the government on a budget vote, which could have happened as early as Wednesday, the three opposition parties decided to wait until Friday for a vote of non-confidence on a different matter.
Few, if any were surprised when all 156 opposition MPs present in the House of Commons, including the Bloc and NDP, rose to support the Liberal motion declaring the governing Conservatives to be in contempt of Parliament for its refusal to share information that opposition members said they needed to properly assess legislation put before them.
It was a history-making moment. While votes of non-confidence are common over budgets, the Liberals say this is the first time in Canadian history a government has been found in contempt.
“This government does not have the confidence of the House of Commons,” said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. “The Conservatives have broken a basic rule of our democracy and can no longer remain in office.”
In a press release emailed out moments after the vote which ended his mandate, Conservative leader Stephen Harper said the opposition parties are “acting irresponsibly and recklessly putting at risk Canadians’ jobs, our economy and stable government.”
Dan Albas, the newly anointed candidate for Okanagan Coquihalla, said it is unfortunate that the opposition decided to force an election, echoing the Conservative party line that no one wanted it, with the exception of the Liberal and NDP parties.
“In Okanagan Coquihalla, we’re ready to stand up and run an election at any time, said Albas. “But this is truly unfortunate that we are faced with an unnecessary and unwanted election.”
Albas is taking over from Stockwell Day, who has held the riding for a decade, but announced earlier this month that he would not be seeking re-election at the end of the current mandate.
David Finnis, who was also recently selected as a federal candidate for the NDP, said he has already been preparing for the campaign.
“It starts officially whenever the writ is dropped but we’ve been doing things for the last while,” said Finnis. “This week it has been pretty evident it was finally going to happen.”
Finnis thought he was going to be running against Day and admits he was surprised by the Day’s retirement announcement last week, though he is not unhappy about it.
“It equalizes the playing field somewhat,” Finnis said noting that Day was a cabinet minister and a sitting member of Parliament that had held the riding for a decade.
“That changes the dynamics as well,” said Finnis, who served for nine years as a member of Summerland City Council. “I am looking forward to both being able to challenge the government on its record and hopefully keep it as a civil debate.”
He thinks the Conservatives being in contempt of Parliament and the ethical issues that have been raised recently will be a big factor in the election campaign, as well as being a personal motivating factor.
“It certainly the factor that brought me into the race, in the sense that I had been increasingly disgusted by their attitude,” said Finnis. “This is the first Canadian government to be found in contempt of Parliament, the first time in the Commonwealth, which is embarrassing on the world stage … it all ties into that whole question of trust and ethics.”