In breaking news this morning, the Canadian Liberal government of prime minister Paul Martin has been
defeated in a vote of no-confidence, 171 to 133, forcing an early
election in January.

No Australian government has been defeated in the House of
Representatives in 30 years, since the caretaker Fraser government of
1975. But in other Westminster systems, with less rigid party systems
than ours, it happens from time to time.

Earlier this month, the Blair government was defeated in the House of
Commons on a clause of its anti-terrorism legislation. Britain’s
previous Labour government, under Jim Callaghan, fell to a no-confidence
vote in 1979, as did the Canadian government of Joe Clark later the same

This is Canada’s second no-confidence vote for the year – back in May,
Martin survived by the skin of his teeth. Since then, however, the
Liberals have been deserted by their former allies, the
social-democratic NDP. Today the NDP, as expected, voted with the
opposition Conservative Party and the separatist Quebec Bloc – even
though there is no prospect that the three of them would be able to
co-operate in government.

Martin had offered to hold elections in March, but that was not enough
to satisfy the opposition. Canada therefore faces a mid-winter election – January 23rd is tipped as the likely date – with a campaign over Christmas and New Year. Most
observers expect it to produce another hung parliament and a further
period of minority government.