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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Canada government loses key vote
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin
Paul Martin says he will call an election later this year
Canada's Liberal minority government says it will not resign, despite losing a key censure vote in parliament.

The administration of Prime Minister Paul Martin lost the opposition motion in a 150-153 vote.

The vote was called amid a judicial inquiry into irregularities in the awarding of government contracts by a Liberal administration in the 1990s.

The government said the motion was purely a procedural matter, rejecting calls for it to stand down.

"We will continue to govern on behalf of Canadians," the Liberal leader in the House of Commons, Tony Valeri, told parliament after the vote.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Liberals announced that the opposition parties would have three days at the end of May to control the parliamentary agenda and introduce formal no-confidence motions.

Mr Martin has been fighting to save his minority government, with the opposition Conservative Party and Bloc Quebecois increasingly pushing for an early election.

'Dangerous situation'

The motion called on the Public Accounts Committee to amend a report to "recommend that the government resign because of its failure to address the deficiencies in governance of the public service".

MINORITY GOVERNMENT
Liberal Party: 132 MPs
Conservative Party: 99 MPs
Bloc Quebecois: 54 MPs
New Democratic Party: 19 MPs
Independents: 3 MPs
Vacant: One seat

The Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois managed to secure the backing of 153 lawmakers in a close vote.

Afterwards, the opposition said Mr Martin's administration had lost all moral authority to govern.

Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper said Mr Martin's behaviour "has gone from dithering to desperate and now to dangerous, and this is a very serious situation".

He said his party would take "additional steps" to deal with the situation.

Governments in Canada have to resign if they are defeated in the House of Commons in a formal vote of confidence or over key legislative matters such as the federal budget.

'Kickbacks'

The scandal erupted after a report last year found that C$100m (US$80m; 43m) of government money earmarked to promote Canadian unity in the late 1990s had been given to advertising firms with Liberal connections for little or no work.

The subsequent judicial inquiry, ordered by Mr Martin and headed by Judge John Gomery, has heard testimony including allegations that Liberal party officials received kickbacks.

In testimony on Monday, Benoit Corbeil, the party's former chief executive in the province of Quebec, said he gave envelopes stuffed with C$100 bills to party staffers now working for government ministers.

He said the money came from a secret C$50,000 donation from an advertising executive, who has admitted giving money from government contracts to the Liberal Party.

Mr Martin has not been implicated in the affair, but was finance minister at the time.

He has promised to call a general election within 30 days of the final report, due at the end of the year.





SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Canada's financial scandal
10 May 05 |  Americas
Canada's PM fights to stay in job
22 Apr 05 |  Americas
Scandal anger mounts in Canada
10 Apr 05 |  Americas
Canada scandal testimony released
08 Apr 05 |  Americas
Canada PM quizzed over lost funds
10 Feb 05 |  Americas


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