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Why we are having an Election

Posted by Don McLenaghen on April 26, 2011

The Conservatives have stated that the election was caused by the ‘opposition’ and that Harper Conservatives were just trying to pass a budget the country needed.

Conservatives said “We’re having an election because the other three political parties saw an opportunity to go after the government.”

Liberals said “Canadians know exactly why we’re having an election. We’re having an election because [the Harper government] didn’t tell Parliament the truth about your budget costs, about any of the numbers, they became unbelievable … eventually the confidence of the whole Parliament was lost, that’s why we’re having an election.”

The true cause, for those who remember, was in fact that the Conservatives were found guilty of contempt of parliament for lying to parliament.

A motion asked MPs to agree with the report from the standing committee on procedure and house affairs that concluded the government was in contempt, and “consequently, the House has lost confidence in the government.” A Canadian government has never before been found in contempt.

“You had more votes than we did.” Harper dismissed “the so-called contempt motion” as “simply a case of the other three parties out voting us.” during the debates.

The non-confidence motion, however, was based on a contempt finding by a committee, not by Parliament. Only MPs can find each other in contempt by asking Parliament to support a vote on such a finding in the House of Commons.

The Conservatives were on the losing side of two rulings by the Speaker when he determined there were “prima facie” cases of the privileges of MPs being breached, one involving the Bev Oda/Kairos funding affair; the other, the government’s refusal to provide appropriate spending estimates for its proposed crime legislation among other things.

Oda/Kairos funding affair was a case where the government deliberately misled Parliament and the country about why the funding was denied. A funding request by KAIROS was rejected. The Harper Government stated that the request was rejected because “After completing due diligence, it was determined that the organization’s project does not meet CIDA’s current priorities.”. However  CIDA found that the project did, in fact, meet its priorities – and, by her own revised account, the minister knew that.

After repeatedly restating that the request did not meet funding requirements, the ministers, in the face of contrary evidence, changed their story. On Dec. 13, 2010, Jim Abbott apologized for misleading the House in his March statement, conceding that it was false. The government itself confirmed that the story told by the minister, by her parliamentary secretary and by her spokesman was not the truth.

On Feb. 10, 2011, the Speaker ruled that “any reasonable person confronted with what appears to have transpired would necessarily be extremely concerned, if not shocked.”

The opposition parties began asking the government last fall for cost estimates on the crime bills, the F-35 fighter jet procurement and corporate tax cuts. At first, the government argued it couldn’t release the information because it was protected under what is called cabinet confidence or, as it is sometimes called, executive privilege.


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