What If History
THE CANADIAN PRESS
November 24th, 2005
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Paul Martin has won a stay of political execution - at least until February.
Martin convinced Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to suspend Parliament on Thursday, delaying a non-confidence vote scheduled for Monday that would have brought down his beleaguered minority Liberal government.
The House of Commons has gone dark until February 1st, when Martin will return and present a throne speech. He is expected to request an election the next day, fulfilling his promise to call an election after Judge Gomery reports.
"Let me be perfectly clear - this government is fundamentally committed to fulfilling it's promise to hold an election after Judge Gomery does his work. That is our number one priority, along with with health care and the economy" the prime minister said outside the front door of Rideau Hall.
The decision also sets up the prospect of a fierce battle with the opposition coalition for public support over the coming weeks.
Jean agreed to Martin's unprecedented request after a face-to-face meeting at the vice-regal residence that lasted more than two hours.
The decision pulls the teetering minority Liberal government back from the brink, at least for the moment.
"We must realize the enormity of what has happened here today," said Conservative leader Stephen Harper, standing in the foyer of the Commons. "For the first time in the history of Canada, the prime minister of Canada is running away from the Parliament of Canada."
Harper had asked Jean to refuse to prorogue, arguing that Martin no longer enjoys the confidence of the House of Commons.
A petition signed by all opposition MPs went to the Governor General on Thursday morning stating that "a majority of Members of Parliament . . . believe that this government has lost the confidence of the house."
The reaction has been fierce. Conservatives have planned rallies across this country to protest Jean's decision to prorogue. In Alberta, talk shows were swamped with irate callers angry over the Prime Minister's decision to "run away and hide".
Liberals, meanwhile, will be holding counter-rallies to support the prorogation decision. "I believe in clarity - and the precedence is clear" said Environment Minister Stephane Dion. "The governor general must always accept the prime minister's advice to prorogue and that is what she did today."