Government rapped and escapes nonconfidence motion

Wed Mar 9, 2011 5:43pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The government received two formal reprimands on Wednesday but escaped an immediate nonconfidence debate that could have triggered an election.

The rebukes are another big blow to a government that has suffered a series of ethical problems in the last few months.

The government's escape might be short-lived, since it could well be brought down over a budget to be presented on March 22. The Conservatives need the support of at least one of the three opposition parties and it is very unclear if that will happen.

Peter Milliken, speaker of the House of Commons, first ruled the Conservatives had ignored Parliament's demand to produce financial documents. He then said International Aid Minister Bev Oda had misled legislators over why she cut funding for an aid group the government disliked.

Although polls show Conservatives would retain power in an election now -- and might even turn their minority into a stable majority -- opposition parties are confident they can benefit from the government's ethical woes.

"This speaker believes this government does not respect the democratic principles at the heart of our democracy ... (he) has said 'Wake up Canada, this is a government that cannot be trusted to respect the institutions of our country'," said Michael Ignatieff, leader of the main opposition Liberals.

The Liberals could in theory present a nonconfidence motion on March 21, the day before the budget. Ignatieff said he was keeping all his options open.

John Baird, the government minister in charge of day-to-day business in the House of Commons, said he would reflect on Milliken's rulings.   Continued...