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Nyvalg i Canada nærmere

Torsdag denne uken fremmet lederen for det konservative partiet og leder for opposisjonen Stephen Harper mistillitsforslag mot regjeringen ledet av Paul Martin fra det liberale partiet. Mistillitsforslaget skal behandles i Underhuset mandag og vil ventelig vedtas da Bloc Quebecois (som kjemper for selvstendighet for den franskspråklige provinsen Quebec) og New Democratic Party (som er et venstreorientert parti) støtter nyvalg. Årsaken til det politiske bråket i Canada som har vart hele dette året, er en korrupsjonsskandale som involverer det styrende liberale partiet og den tidligere statsminister Jean Chretien. Nåværende statsminister Martin er ikke direkte involvert i skandalen, men opposisjonen mener at det liberale partiet er diskreditert og fortjener å gå av. Martin var også finansminister under Chretien i 9 år.

Canada vil dermed oppleve en knallhard valgkamp i den forestående høytid. Nyvalg er ventet i løpet av januar.

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Fra www.canoe.ca


Liberals defeated, election looms

By ALEXANDER PANETTA

OTTAWA (CP) - The threads holding up Paul Martin's fragile Liberal minority have finally snapped, propelling Canada into a frosty winter election campaign - the first in over a quarter-century.

Canadians face a choice between a scandal-scarred Liberal government asking for a fifth mandate and a Conservative opposition still looking to connect with weary voters. Polls suggest a toss-up that seems likely to result in the second minority government in just over 18 months.

The campaign battle lines were drawn minutes after the minority Liberal government was toppled by a united opposition in a historic vote of non-confidence Monday night.

Martin boasted to his MPs of his government's solid fiscal management and slammed Conservative Leader Stephen Harper for co-operating with the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

Harper promised a better future under a Tory regime and lashed out at Liberal corruption, vowing to clean up after a government tarred by the sponsorship scandal.

For the first time, a federal government collapsed on a straight motion of non-confidence as the opposition easily outmuscled the Liberals in a 171-133 vote.

There was little crackling drama in the vote as the opposition Conservative-Bloc-NDP signalled over two weeks ago that Paul Martin's Liberals were doomed.

Instead, there was an air of jubilation and joviality in the House of Commons in the moments before and after the vote.

Cheering MPs tossed sheets of paper into the air as the vote result was announced.

Politicians who will soon be battering one another on frozen election trails crossed the aisle to shake hands and share warm embraces before boarding buses and planes for the longest campaign in more than two decades.

Martin is to visit Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to dissolve the 38th Parliament and call an immediate election.

The prime minister is expected to set an exceptionally long eight-week campaign, culminating in a vote Jan. 23.

"Let's get started here," a smiling Martin shouted to his MPs amid loud cheers at a caucus meeting. "Time's awastin.' "

The prime minister's opening campaign speech to his Liberal caucus laid out the intended themes of his election platform: herald the country's solid economy, claim small-l liberal values as the nation's values.

And paint a stark, frightening portrait of Harper. Martin described his chief foe as soft on Quebec separatism.

The attack was rich with irony considering Harper championed the federal Clarity Act in the 1990s while Martin remained silent on new get-tough rules for Quebec independence.

Harper told his troops he expects to be demonized.

"When Paul Martin comes after us, as he will - when he comes after me, as he's already planning - take that as proof we are on the right track," Harper said.

He also told Tories they must run an optimistic campaign and resist the urge to spend the coming weeks solely blasting the Liberals for the sponsorship scandal.

"It's never enough to show the public just what we're against. We will show them a positive vision for the future.

"This is not just the end of a tired, directionless scandal-plagued government, it's the start of a bright new future for this great country."

But the prime minister heads into the campaign armed with sunny, optimistic economic statistics that will be the centrepiece of his Liberal campaign.

Martin heralded a 30-year low in unemployment, historically low inflation, and eight straight years of balanced budgets that are the envy of almost every other country.

"Today in Canada, inflation is low, interest rates are low, it's easier to buy a home, it's easier to get a job," Martin said.

"And that is the result of the hard work and the good management of a Liberal government."

The leaders of the two biggest parties have their own political futures riding on the election results. Both Harper and Martin will likely have challengers waiting in the wings if they falter over the coming weeks.

NDP Leader Jack Layton proudly declared that his party accomplished plenty in the last Parliament and would accomplish even more with additional MPs.

The New Democrats sided with the Liberals in confidence votes this spring after the government agreed to delay $4.6 billion in corporate tax cuts and spend that money on education, housing and the environment.

An election became inevitable when the NDP turned on its former allies this month. Layton warned for days that he was increasingly frustrated with the growth of private health care.

He staged a headline-grabbing divorce with the government and that declaration of non-confidence was the final nail in the Liberal coffin.

"I think it's very clear that the Liberals have not earned people's votes," Layton told his MPs.

"And on the other hand, we have the Conservatives who just don't fit with where most Canadians are. They have another choice and it's with the New Democrats, who with a small caucus have shown what can be done.

"And with more members of Parliament we'll be able to get a lot more done."

Party leaders will hit the road Tuesday.

Martin plans to spend his first campaign day touring key battlegrounds in eastern Ontario and southwestern Quebec. On one of his first stops, he is expected to introduce famed astronaut Marc Garneau as a Liberal candidate in Vaudreuil, Que. Garneau became the first Canadian in space in 1984.

The 17 months since the last election will likely be remembered more for their caustic political jousting than classic policy achievement.

As the government wavered with every explosive new allegation from the sponsorship inquiry, politicians of all stripes seemed to devote more energy to electoral positioning than they did to running the country.

The opposition tried to topple the government last spring following allegations that cash-stuffed envelopes illegally funded Liberal campaigns and enriched friends of the regime in the 1990s.

The government, meanwhile, has spent two years tarring Harper as an angry leader who prefers spewing vitriol about the 1990s because he lacks a saleable plan to take Canada into the 21st century.

Martin's first mandate was not without its achievements.

He reversed much of the pain imposed during his years as a deficit-slashing finance minister. As prime minister, Martin turned from deficit grinch into fiscal Santa, his bursting federal coffers showering largesse up until a final $24 billion Liberal spending spree in recent days.

A dilapidated military got $12 billion, a crumbling health-care system got $41 billion, cash-strapped provinces got $33 billion for equalization, and cities got $5 billion from federal gas-tax revenues.

But there were no historic initiatives on par with free trade, the Charter of Rights, medicare and official bilingualism.

For months, the Liberals used every procedural tactic at their disposal to remain in power. They wanted to stage an election next spring after delivering a good-news budget and after the final report on the sponsorship scandal.

The government's collapse comes exactly one year and five months after an election that turned a Liberal majority into a fragile minority on June 28, 2004.

Only four federal governments have ever seen a swifter collapse: in 1926, 1958, 1963 and 1979.

The upcoming election will bear a striking resemblance to the 1979-80 federal campaign, at least in climatic terms. Joe Clark's Conservatives were toppled in a budget vote on Dec. 13, 1979, and fought what had been the only election to span the Christmas holidays.

Ottawa was sprayed with freezing rain overnight in a portent of the nasty weather that will greet party leaders as they set foot on airport tarmacs and off campaign buses across the country.

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