Tories survive Liberal no-confidence motion

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government has survived a Liberal no-confidence motion with help from the NDP, averting an election.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands to vote against a no-confidence motion in the House of Commons on Thursday. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government has survived a Liberal no-confidence motion with help from the NDP, averting an election.

The Liberal motion, supported by the Bloc Québécois, was defeated by a vote of 144 to 117 on Thursday after the NDP decided to abstain.

NDP Leader Jack Layton had earlier said his party is propping up the Conservative government to ensure the speedy passage of legislation extending employment insurance benefits.

The $1-billion proposed legislation would provide from five to 20 weeks of additional benefits, depending on how long an eligible individual has been working and paying into EI.

"I think it would be irresponsible to throw the country into an election at a time when we have the possibility of getting a billion dollars more for the tens of thousands of families just in the next couple of weeks," Layton told CBC News.

Earlier Thursday, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff opened debate on the motion in the House of Commons and said unemployed Canadians feel "totally abandoned" by the government.

"How do I explain to these people that I keep letting this government go on and that is why in my hearts of hearts, after much reflection, we've decided as a party that we can't continue to give the government confidence in the House of Commons," Ignatieff said.

The Conservative government has shown "a terrible record of failure and someone must stand up in this House and call it for what it is," he said.

Transport Minister John Baird told the House the Liberals should look "at the real needs of the people in this country."

"What Canadians have said very clearly from coast to coast to coast … is they do not want an early and opportunistic election," Baird said.

Liberals don't trust government

Ignatieff said his party no longer trusts the Conservative government.

"So the issue for us is just basic trust with what this government is saying to us. We're tired of this kind of game-playing. We wanted real accountability. We wanted a government that tells Canadians the truth. We've had enough," Ignatieff said when he filed the notice of motion on Monday.

He told the House on Thursday that the government has lost control of public finances, has no real plan for Canada's economic recovery and must be held accountable.

Despite wanting to see the EI package go through, the NDP members "have not supported the direction that the Conservatives have taken" on issues that include the war in Afghanistan and climate change, Layton said.

With files from The Canadian Press