US & Canada

Canadian government falls after no-confidence vote

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Media captionStephen Harper said the election would "disappoint" most Canadians

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government has fallen after a no-confidence vote passed in the country's parliament.

The vote, engineered by the opposition Liberal Party and backed by two other opposition parties, triggers an election expected in early May.

The move stemmed from a ruling on Monday that the minority government was in contempt of parliament.

But the Conservatives are thought likely to keep power in a May election.

The House of Commons adjourned on Friday after the no-confidence motion brought by Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff passed on a 156-145 vote.

The vote came after a finding by a parliamentary committee led by the opposition parties that Mr Harper's government had acted in contempt by failing to disclose the full costs of spending on anti-crime programmes, corporate tax cuts and plans to purchase stealth fighter jets.

On Saturday, Mr Harper will ask Governor General David Johnston to dissolve parliament, and following that, an election will be held after a minimum 36 days of campaigning.

Canadian analysts expect it will be called for the first week in May.

Nobody was surprised by the result of the confidence vote, says the BBC's Lee Carter in Toronto.

Having led two minority governments, Mr Harper is hoping this time his party will win a majority at the ballot box, our correspondent says.

The state of the recovering Canadian economy, along with ethics and accountability, are expected to be the main election issues, he adds.

'Historic moment'

After the confidence vote, Mr Harper, 51, said he suspected the forthcoming federal election, the country's fourth in seven years, would "disappoint" most Canadians.

He said he and Conservative MPs would remain focused on nurturing Canada's economic recovery.

"Our priority will remain to ensure stability and security for Canadians, in what remain extremely challenging global circumstances," he said.

Mr Ignatieff, a 63-year old historian, writer and political commentator leading the Liberal Party into an election for the first time, hailed the "historic moment", and called for a focus on healthcare, education and retirement support.

"We want to form an alternative to the Harper government that respects democracy, that respects our institutions, that respects Canadian citizens," he said.

Mr Harper's Conservative Party holds 145 seats in the dissolving parliament, shy of a majority of the 308 seats.

Recent polling suggests the Conservatives will enjoy a lead at the start of campaigning, with the Liberal Party in second, the New Democratic (NDP) Party third and the Bloc Quebecois, which campaigns only in Quebec, fourth.

The Conservative Party is considered likely to emerge from the May election in power with some polls indicating it could even gain seats.

Analysts say Canadian voters have shown little desire for an election, although Mr Harper's minority government had set a record for its tenure.

"The political calculations driving this election have nothing to do with making Canada a better place for Canadians," CTV television political analyst Don Martin said ahead of the vote.

"The opposition parties see a moment of weakness."

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