Canadian government falls, elections set for May

Opposition leaders topple the conservative government; accuse it of sleaze and mismanagement.

Canada PM Harper 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Blair Gable)
Canada PM Harper 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Blair Gable)
OTTAWA - The opposition toppled Canada's Conservative government on Friday, accusing it of sleaze and mismanagement, and set the scene for a May election that polls indicate the Conservatives will win.
Opposition legislators threw papers in the air in glee after voting 156-145 in the House of Commons to defeat the minority government, which they also say has mismanaged the economy and is overly secretive.
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The defeat paves the way for an election that will likely be fought on two main themes -- ethics and the economy. Likely dates are May 2 or May 9.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper admitted he was disappointed by the result, and said Canadians did not want what will be the fourth general election in less than seven years.
"Our priority will remain to ensure stability and security for Canadians in what remain extremely challenging global circumstances," he told reporters soon after the vote.
Harper said he would visit Governor General David Johnston, the representative of Queen Elizabeth, Canada's head of state, on Saturday to seek the formal dissolution of Parliament and set a date for the election.
This week, a parliamentary committee slapped the government with the first contempt ruling in Canada's history, saying the Conservatives had hidden the full costs of a spending program.
"There are only two alternatives here -- more of this disrespect for democracy, more of this contempt for the Canadian people, or a compassionate, responsible Liberal government," said Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, an academic and broadcaster who has headed the party since 2008.
Harper says that if he does not win a majority in the forthcoming election, the Liberals, the left-leaning New Democrats and the separatist Bloc Quebecois are planning to form an unstable coalition government.