Canadian government falls, election set for May

OTTAWA,  (Reuters) – The opposition toppled  Canada’s Conservative government today, accusing it of  sleaze and mismanagement, and set the scene for a May election  that polls indicate the Conservatives will win.
Opposition legislators threw papers in the air in glee  after voting 156-145 in the House of Commons to defeat the  minority government, which they also say has mismanaged the  economy and is overly secretive.
The defeat paves the way for an election that will likely  be fought on two main themes — ethics and the economy. Likely  dates are May 2 or May 9.
Canada’s dollar was steady at C$0.9810 to the U.S. dollar,  or $1.0194. Domestic stocks ignored the political news and  ended slightly higher on a rally in resource stocks.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper admitted he was disappointed  by the result, and said Canadians did not want what will be the  fourth general election in less than seven years.
“Our priority will remain to ensure stability and security  for Canadians in what remain extremely challenging global  circumstances,” he told reporters soon after the vote.
Harper said he would visit Governor General David Johnston,  the representative of Queen Elizabeth, Canada’s head of state,  on Saturday to seek the formal dissolution of Parliament and  set a date for the election.
The Conservatives, in power since 2006 with two successive  minority governments, are well ahead of the main opposition  Liberal Party in opinion polls. If the polls translate into  votes, Harper would once again get the most number of seats.
Only the Conservatives or the Liberals can realistically  win and both stress the need for fiscal austerity and the  importance of paying down Canada’s record budget deficit.
The opposition thinks it can benefit from a series of  ethical scandals to hit the Conservatives, who came to power  promising to clean up Ottawa.
This week, a parliamentary committee slapped the government  with the first contempt ruling in Canada’s history, saying the  Conservatives had hidden the full costs of a spending program.
“There are only two alternatives here — more of this  disrespect for democracy, more of this contempt for the  Canadian people, or a compassionate, responsible Liberal  government,” said Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, an academic  and broadcaster who has headed the party since 2008.
Harper says that if he does not win a majority in the  forthcoming election, the Liberals, the left-leaning New  Democrats and the separatist Bloc Quebecois are planning to  form an unstable coalition government.
The charge could dog Ignatieff, who has so far declined to  categorically rule out the idea.
“Any democratic politician … respects the verdict of the  people,” he said.

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