15 June 2005

Canada headed for general election?

MP O'Brien throws wrench into night of confidence votes
London-Fanshawe MP Pat O'Brien has issued an ultimatum, saying he and an unnamed Liberal MP will vote against the minority Liberal government in a series of confidence votes Tuesday night unless the same-sex marriage bill is delayed.

If they carry out the threat, Paul Martin's government could fall, pushing the country into a summer election campaign.
O'Brien, who left the Liberal caucus this month to sit as an Independent over the gay-marriage issue, told CBC News that he will continue negotiating with Liberal officials in the hours before the voting begins at 10 p.m. EDT.

He wants a promise, in writing, that the passage of the same-sex marriage bill will not happen until after Parliament resumes in the fall.

Canada's Martin Probably Will Survive Votes Tonight
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, who is relying on the support of political opponents to govern, probably will survive a series of votes tonight aimed at letting Parliament adjourn on time for summer recess.

Balloting on 18 measures, including amendments to this year's budget, will begin about 10 p.m. Ottawa time and last for two hours, said Al Toulin, a spokesman for Liberal House Leader Tony Valeri. Martin can count on enough backing to keep power, said Michael Behiels, an expert on Canadian politics at the University of Ottawa.

``We can all rest for the summer,'' Behiels said in a telephone interview. ``If the government falls it's going to be by accident.''

Martin's Liberal Party has had the support since April of the socialist New Democratic Party on budget bills, helping to stave off efforts by other opposition parties to topple his minority government. The two parties combine for 151 seats in the 308-seat parliament. There are four independent members of parliament, three of whom are former Liberal Party members.

Most of the votes today are deemed matters ``of confidence,'' meaning a loss in any of them could trigger the collapse of the government.

Last month, Martin overcame by one vote an attempt by the opposition Conservatives and the separatist Bloc Quebecois to topple his government. Support for the Conservatives has since waned, lessening the likelihood they'll press for elections, said Peter McCormick, a political science professor at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta.

Gay marriage may seem, to sober what's-in-it-for-me Australians, a weird issue on which to fight a general election. The Martin government's readiness to do just that speaks volumes about the importance the two nations give human rights.

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