Liberals will not quit despite losing vote
The House of Commons passed a motion that opposition parties claim should topple the government â€" but the Liberals have dismissed it as nothing more than a procedural matter.
The motion passed by 153 votes to 150 on Tuesday night.
All 99 Conservative and 54 Bloc Québécois MPs voted for the motion calling on the public accounts committee "to recommend that the government resign."
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The NDP and two Independents voted with the Liberals against the motion. Two cabinet ministers, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and Natural Resources Minister John Efford, were not there for the vote.
Liberals have rejected claims by the opposition that this was a confidence vote, saying it is just a set of instructions to a committee, and that the outcome won't affect the government.
Following the vote, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper demanded that Prime Minister Paul Martin call a formal vote of confidence.
"I would challenge the prime minister, if he believes he has the constitutional authority, to rise in his place and to call for a vote of confidence," Harper said.
Liberal House leader Tony Valeri responded to Harper's challenge, repeating that the vote was not a motion of confidence.
The Speaker then ruled Harper's demand out of order.
Outside the House, Harper said the Liberals were ignoring the democratically expressed will of the House of Commons.
Harper said the government does not have the moral, financial or constitutional authority to govern.
He criticized Martin's behaviour, saying it "has gone from dithering, to desperate, to dangerous. This is a very serious situation."
Harper said his party will take "additional steps" Wednesday to deal with the situation, but provided no details.
Despite the Liberal refusal to treat it as a matter of confidence, the Conservatives have previously said they'll come to work as usual and look for other opportunities to force an election.
Earlier Tuesday, Valeri announced that the opposition parties will have three days at the end of May during which they can introduce formal non-confidence motions.
On those days, the opposition controls the parliamentary agenda.
"We're not afraid to be held accountable," Valeri said at a news conference. "There will be legitimate confidence votes."
The Liberals have already dismissed a similar motion — involving the finance committee and scheduled to be voted on next week — as a procedural matter and not a matter of confidence.