The opposition parties banded together Monday to defeat the Liberal minority government and set the stage for an election that is expected to culminate in a mid-January vote.
In a 171 to 133 vote, the House passed an historic no-confidence motion exactly one year and five months after Canadian voters elected the Liberals.
Prime Minister Paul Martin will now have to go see Governor General Michaëlle Jean Tuesday morning and ask her to dissolve Parliament.
As the vote was conducted, parliamentarians stood up to applaud MPs who will not be running in the next election.
Whether Canadians' desire for change (the Liebrals have been in power for twelve years) will overcome their mistrust of the Conservatives (who have moved considerably to the right since the union of the Canadian Alliance and the old Progressive Conservative Party) remains to be seen.
Recent polls suggest that the Tories, the left-leaning NDP, and the separatist Bloc Quebecois have all been nibbling into Liberal support. But a lot can happen between now and late January, when the election is assumed to be called. So we will see whether Paul Martin can pull another rabbit out of the tattered Liberal hat.
UPDATE Some American readers have been asking what some of the issues are in this election. Here is one version, most of which I cribbed and condensed from the wikipedia site in the interests of time.
Sponsorship scandal This issue continues to be a hindrance for the governing Liberals. The Liberals are currently being attacked and will undoubtedly continue to be hammered by the opposition on this issue, particularly by the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois. Already today, we have heard speeches by Tory Leader Harper and Bloc Leader Duceppe placing the scandal and "integrity in government" at the top of their election issues.
Health care This is a perennial top issue in Canada and is being pushed hard by the NDP and Liberals. In previous election campaigns both the Liberal Party, and the NDP have heavily campaigned to be seen as protectors of Canada's Medicare system. The new Conservative Party, and its predecessors have campaigned on "fixing" the Medicare system in various ways, but there are many on the right who support expanding private-sector health care or - as the Bloc favours - devolving power to the provinces (which essentially means more private health care).
Social Issues Though Canada's generally liberal social policies have enjoyed fairly consistent levels of support in the last decade, there are criticisms from the "Christian Right" and other conservative groups, especially in rural areas and among recent immigrants, that Canada's policies on abortion and same-sex marriage are too liberal. Expect the NDP and Liberals to hammer the Tories on this with a view to continuing to shut them out of gains in urban Canada. The so-called "Notwithstanding Clause" of the Canadian Charter of Rights would be required to revert to the traditional definition and over-ride the Supreme Court ruling on the matter. The Liberals and NDP have also adopted positions supporting the decriminalization of marijuana (a bill doing this died on the order paper) and legalizing prostitution.
The Economy and Taxation The Conservatives proposed to lower taxes significantly, but much of their thunder was stolen by recent tax cuts introduced by the Liberals (afforded by the NDP's withdrawal of support for the government). The Liberals can be expected to run on the fact the government has been raking in huge surpluses (thanks largely to booming resource, especially oil, sectors). Today, the Finance Minister was trumpeting the largest surpluses since Confederation. Expect the Tories to respond that this would allow more tax cuts - the NDP to argue that this should allow greater spending on health care, childcare, and other social programmes.
Canada-United States relations This issue has divided Canada more than ever since the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Most Conservatives believe that closer relations with the United States (such as a North American security perimeter and deeper integration through NAFTA) are necessary for economic and political reasons. Most of the Bloc and NDP believe that Canada needs to move away from the United States, especially with the re-election of President Bush in 2004. The Liberals are split, with most tending to the NDP/Bloc side.
The Americans' rejection of NAFTA's final ruling in Canada's favour in the U.S.-Canada softwood lumber dispute on August 10, 2005 has raised questions about if and how Canada will retaliate. One thing Canada _has_ been doing is actively building markets in other parts of the world, in order to rectify the huge trade imbalance with the States (over two-thirds of our exports go to the US - Canada is the USA's largest supplier of petroleum, natural gas, and hydroelectricity). Expect the Liberals and NDP to paint the Tories as too pro-American. The phrase "American-style" is a favourite epithet in Canadian politics, usually followed by the phrase "health care," "justice system," "politics," etc.
Environment This is another perennial favourite. The Liberal government has been critized by several parties for its policies on environmental matters. Criticism has been expressed by all other parties regarding the Liberal party's management of Canada's carbon dioxide emissions, and how Canada will meet its obligations to the Kyoto Protocol. While the Conservative Party criticizes the Liberals' environmental plans as being fiscally irresponsible and unmanageable, the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois, and especially the Greens would like to see environmental protection as a priority for the federal government. Other environmental issues such as water quality in Aboriginal communities have also received attention.