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And they’re off! After a prolonged snuggle, Harper government falls 156-145

Welcome to the 2011 Canadian general election, which officially started shortly after 2 p.m. as the opposition united behind the Liberal motion to declare the government in contempt of Parliament. The event was predicted, but it had a jarring effect as it came after an afternoon of MPs being civil, polite and downright cordial.

The day started with a series of tributes to outgoing speaker Peter Miliken, the MP for Kingston and the Islands, who is not running in this election. Even the Conservatives, whom the speaker has ruled against three times in the last year, had effusive praise for Miliken. The Liberals, Bloc and NDP were no less generous in their praise.

Things got weirder as MPs filed into the House to cast their fateful votes, taking the opportunity to cross the aisle and shake hands, hug and otherwise make it look like the last day of school before summer break. Stephen Harper even crossed the floor to shake hands with Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton. Andrew Coyne, editor for Macleans, pointed out that “pretending to hate each other’s guts for the cameras,” and then “going out for beers afterward” is a “joint con job on the public.”

In the end, the Conservatives were opposed by all MPs except for Tories-in-all-but-name Helena Guergis and André Arthur. As is the tradition, a handful of Liberals tried and failed to recreate the image of 1979, when they threw papers in the air to show the end of business. Just like in 2006, it was decidedly lacklustre. Let’s hope the campaign itself proves less pathetic.

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