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The Political Crisis in Canada

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TEHRAN, March 24 (ICANA) – What could end Parliament and send the country to the polls?
Thursday, March 24, 2011 1:26:11 PM
The Political Crisis in Canada

There are several scenarios. The opposition could use its majority in the House of Commons to defeat the government in a confidence vote, either on the budget, a routine money supply bill that stems from last year's budget, or a separate opposition motion, likely over a report finding the Conservatives in contempt of parliament. Or, Stephen Harper, the prime minister, could pull the plug and call an election himself, before any of those votes take place.

When is the earliest that the government could be brought down?

If the Commons debate on the budget continues Thursday as expected, the Bloc Quebecois would be up next and introduce some kind of sub-amendment based on its criticism of the economic blueprint, but might not get the support of the Liberals and NDP, said Nelson Wiseman, a University of Toronto Canadian politics expert.

On Thursday, though, the Liberal amendment introduced Tuesday could come to a vote, which would spell the government's demise if it were passed. All those scenarios are up in the air, however, since the government controls the agenda, said Ned Franks, a political studies professor at Queen's University.

How about Friday?

Friday is a scheduled opposition day, meaning the parties could bring in a motion condemning the government for being in contempt of parliament over its release of details on crime and other bills. To defeat the government, though, the motion would have to expressly state that parliament had lost confidence in the government, said Prof. Franks. Alternatively, the government could orchestrate a budget vote before the opposition motion is even considered, said Prof. Wiseman.

Is there any chance the opposition parties would back down and not defeat the government?

Analysts say the die has been cast and it is unlikely any party will blink at this point. "Everybody has beaten themselves into a frenzy and the logical end of a political frenzy is an election," said Prof. Franks.

So, when will the election take place?

An election must be on a Monday by law, and has to be at least 36 days long. If the government falls Friday, the earliest date would be May 2, though the May 9 is also considered possible.

How would the parties like it all to end?

The Conservatives would prefer their government to fall on the budget, which they likely believe would be easy to defend on the hustings. The opposition wants to "change the story" and make the election over the government's integrity, so would prefer a confidence vote on the contempt issue, said Prof. Franks. Once the election gets going, all this will probably not matter much, but for now it will consume the parties, said Prof. Wiseman. "We're at the end game of this parliament. Imagine a chess board and we have a check mate coming. Will be it be this move or that move?"  (Tom Blackwell, National Post)

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