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Liberals head off election Government delays opportunity for no-confidence vote until Nov. 14

Government delays opportunity for no-confidence vote until Nov. 14


federal government will not schedule any opposition days in the House of Commons until mid-November, removing a main avenue for triggering a fall election.

A similar move last spring angered the opposition parties but kept the minority Liberal government in power.

The government must schedule seven opposition days before Dec. 8, according to Commons rules. Such days allow one opposition party to put forward a motion of their choice, which is then put to a vote by all MPs.

House Leader Tony Valeri said yesterday the first opposition day would be Nov. 14. If the government were to lose a no-confidence vote then or on a subsequent opposition day, an election would have to be held around Christmas.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has promised to call an election with 30 days of the release of the Gomery report into the sponsorship scandal. The first report is scheduled to be released Nov. 1 and the second in February.

Mr. Valeri said the government would hold a confidence vote on its bill to give heating rebates to low-income Canadians. However, it's highly unlikely the oppositon would want to defeat the government on that issue.

Mr. Valeri said his job is to keep the government alive.

"I would not do anything that would prevent the Prime Minister from sustaining and meeting the commitment that he made to Canadians to have an election 30 days after Gomery," he said.

Conservative Deputy House Leader Jason Kenney condemned the opposition-day schedule and said the Tory caucus would decide this morning how to protest. He said his party had not selected a topic for its first opposition day.

"We certainly had not made a decision to vote to dissolve this Parliament, but we wanted to have the option should we feel it's necessary and in the public interest and the government is trying to eliminate that option, which we think is basically unprecedented and it's certainly undemocratic," he said.

The government's move may have helped Conservative Leader Stephen Harper avoid an internal battle with his MPs over whether to force a fall election.

Before Mr. Valeri's announcement, four Tory MPs told The Globe they would prefer to wait until the second Gomery report comes out on Feb. 1 before trying to defeat the government.

Newfoundland MP Norman Doyle said there has been little debate about election timing in the Conservative caucus he chairs, but said the public expects both reports to be out before a trip to the polls.

"I think people generally are of the understanding that we should wait for the Gomery Commission and the first report in November is a preliminary report. I think people will be looking to see what Gomery has to say in his final report in February," he said.

Similar comments were made by Tory MPs Joy Smith, Gerry Ritz and Gary Schellenberger, although they also indicated they would support Mr. Harper if he opted for a fall campaign.

Michel Gauthier, the Bloc Québécois House Leader, said he saw no reason to call a snap election and said neither the Tories nor the NDP should take for granted his party's support for a no-confidence vote.

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