Canadian Liberal government loses House of Commons vote, won't call election

May 11, 2005

Canadian Parliament

The Canadian Liberal government lost a key vote on a censure motion in the House of Commons, but has ignored demands by the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois to resign and call an election.

Liberal House leader Tony Valeri told Parliament after the vote, "We will continue to govern on behalf of Canadians," through a chorus of dispute.

Opposition parties claim they have triggered a constitutional crisis by clearly indicating the government no longer has the right to rule, but they have refused to ask Parliament to be dissolved. The opposition have been working for weeks to bring about a technical maneuver such as this when the government is weakened by months of wrangling over the Sponsorship Scandal.

The vote involved amending a report from October 2004 recommending the government resign for failure to address "governance of the public service."

The Canadian constitution calls for a government to dissolve and hold elections when there is a Parliamentary vote of no confidence, or a vote defeating a budget or money bill. The government says the censure amendment vote does not constitute an official vote of no confidence. Constitutional experts have said that the vote does raise a question-mark over confidence, and that this will therefore have to be settled expeditiously with a true confidence motion.

The event is likely to paralyze Parliament. The Conservatives have promised to shut down the Parliament, by voting each morning to end the day before any work is done.


The current status of the Parliament has the Liberals with 132 seats. The Conservatives hold 99 seats and are working in concert with the Bloc Québécois who hold 54 seats. Prime Minister Paul Martin recently worked a deal with the New Democrat Party, whose 19 seats have strengthened his position but still lack a majority. The remaining three independent seats and one vacancy quite literally may determine the outcome of a no-confidence vote if held later this month.

The government is only 10 months old, having been elected June 28, 2004, and is a rare minority government in Canadian history.