For first time in Canadian history a minority government has been found in contempt of Parliament. The result is that a non-confidence vote spurred by Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party has brought down the Harper government.
Update: Canada heads to the polls May 2
This afternoon, Canadian MPs voted 156 to 145 in support of a Liberal motion to find the minority Conservative government in contempt of Parliament. The majority of MPs say they have lost confidence in the government.
Claiming the Harper government is "out of touch and out of control", Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff set the stage for the historic vote of non-confidence which took place just after 2 p.m. Eastern.
"A government that does not respect democracy does not deserve to stay in power," Ignatieff said. "We did not seek an election. But if we need to replace a government that doesn't respect democracy with one that does." "I can't think of a more necessary election. Enough of the politics of fear, enough of the politics of division. So we need a change."
In a preview of his campaign platform, Ignatieff accused the Harper Government of not addressing important issues such as assistance for Canadian families living in poverty, health care and child care.
In a spirited debate on the floor of the House of Commons, Government House Leader John Baird accused the opposition parties as being a "coalition" who have shown "real contempt" for parliament by calling a "reckless" election. "They will have to answer for that," said Baird.
Conservative House Leader John Baird
NDP Leader Jack Layton said the Tories could have avoided an election by working with the opposition parties to improve the budget which was submitted on Tuesday morning. Layton says Harper chose not to.
"The truth is that the Prime Minister prefers an election," he said. "They're just plain stubborn. Why are the conservatives intent on provoking an election?"
Jack Layton is the leader of the New Democratic Party
Over the last 11 weeks, voters have seen $26 million worth of "feel good" Economic Action Plan ads on television.
As CTV notes, Ignatieff has attempted to convince Canadians it's a two-party choice at the polls, with a blue Conservative door on one side and a red Liberal door on the other.
The Conservatives have fought back at that notion, as Tory MP Dean Del Mastro said, "Lurking behind the red door are socialists and separatists plotting for cabinet seats."
Gilles Duceppe is the leader of the Bloc Qubecois
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe scoffed at the Tory's approach, saying it was Harper himself who first courted the Bloc to try and topple Paul Martin's minority government in 2008. "He was coming in my office saying, 'If Martin is going to lose confidence, what do you want in the throne speech? What would you like in the budget'?" said Duceppe.
The election will take place between May 2-9.
Prime Minister Harper must defend his government
in Canada's federal election 2011