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Heated debate after Liberals introduce contempt motion
MPs engaged in a fiery debate in Commons Friday after Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff introduced a non-confidence motion that is all but certain to bring down the government.
After a short delay, MPs will vote on the motion at 2 p.m. ET, likely marking the end of the 40th Parliament.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper would then visit Gov. Gen. David Johnston on Saturday, explain that Parliament has lost confidence in his government and ask him to dissolve Parliament, officially launching the election campaign.
After introducing his non-confidence motion on Friday, Ignatieff told the Speaker of the House of Commons that Canadians and parliamentarians have lost confidence in the government, and it is time for an election.
Ignatieff slammed Harper and the Conservative party for failing to provide cost estimates for fighter jets, prisons and corporate tax cuts, and cited a recent ruling that found the government in contempt of Parliament.
"A government that breaks the rules and conceals facts from the Canadian people doesn't deserve to remain in office," Ignatieff said in his remarks.
He accused the government of abusing its power and said Canadians have a "hunger" and "longing" for new leadership.
"It's time to change Canada's direction, time to get us on the right path. After five years of Conservative government, it's time to say enough is enough," Ignatieff said.
Harper was absent from question period while the debate was taking place.
Amid heckling from the Liberal members, Government House Leader John Baird responded to Ignatieff's speech, launching into a defence of the budget and listing groups and individuals that would benefit from the fiscal blueprint.
Baird then called on opposition MPs to vote against the non-confidence motion, in order to save the budget.
"Let us be clear about what this vote of non-confidence is really about," Baird said. "It's a vote against the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. It's a vote against our low-tax plan for jobs and economic growth. It's a vote against hard-working Canadians and their families. It's a vote that will weaken Canada's economic recovery."
Baird and other Conservative MPs then took turns accusing the opposition of plotting to form a coalition -- a message that is expected to be central to their election campaign.
Chief Government Whip Gordon O'Connor asked MPs to imagine a "fictional" future with the Bloc in charge of public security, the New Democrats in charge of finance, and the Liberals in charge of accountability, and said "God help Canada" if that were to happen.
Earlier this week, after all three parties rejected the Conservatives' federal budget, Ignatieff unveiled the motion that said Canadians had lost confidence in the government.
The NDP and Bloc Quebecois leaders have both indicated they will support the motion, which would bring down the government and trigger an election campaign, with Canadians likely going to the polls in early May.
All parties have been busy getting ready for an election, preparing campaign buses, making signs, and laying out the issues that will form the central planks of their campaigns.
Pollster Nik Nanos, of Nanos Research, said the central election themes for the parties are beginning to emerge.
"We know the Conservatives want to run on jobs and the economy, and it's pretty clear the opposition want to attack the government on trust and accountability," he told CTV's Canada AM on Friday.
"Right now the polling suggests that neither has the upper hand and we're going to have to wait for the next couple of weeks to see which way it tilts, whether it's going to be jobs or trust."