TORONTO -- Prime Minister Paul Martin survived a razor-thin vote of confidence yesterday, allowing him to retain power and ending one of Canada's most dramatic political standoffs in decades.
The House of Commons split 152-to-152 on the measure that served as a confidence motion, and it took a vote by the Parliament speaker to give the minority government its one-vote victory.
''The margin of tonight's vote is very narrow -- indeed that is an understatement," said Martin. It was the first time in Canadian history that a speaker has broken a tie on a confidence vote.
''We must now move forward in a spirit of cooperation. We ask the opposition to join with us in a renewed effort to make this Parliament work for the people of Canada," he said.
Independent legislator Chuck Cadman cast a key vote when he sided with the Liberals after keeping mum for weeks about which way he would go.
Although the chamber easily passed the Liberal Party's budget, 250 to 54, an amendment to the federal document served as the test of confidence.
The House of Commons has been paralyzed for weeks, as the opposition Conservative Party has prevented business through motions to adjourn and demands that Martin resign. The opposition said a corruption scandal within Martin's Liberal Party, insisting he no longer had enough support to continue to govern.
Martin is not implicated in the money-laundering scandal. Shortly after taking office in June, he launched a federal investigation into a national unity fund that allegedly allowed senior Liberals to funnel millions of dollars into their Quebec coffers.
He has pledged to call elections within 30 days of the commission's report, which is expected at the end of the year.
''While I regret this decision deeply, it has shown now more than ever the necessity for a strong, united, and principled opposition dedicated to replacing this government," said Conservative leader Stephen Harper.
Martin last week called for a motion on his proposed budget and said it would stand as an official test of confidence in his 11-month minority government. If the budget had failed, Martin would have been forced to dissolve Parliament and trigger elections, which polls have indicated Canadians do not want.
Martin's budget calls for $10.6 million to overhaul Canada's beleaguered military, so that it can play a bigger role in securing the US-Canadian border and peacekeeping efforts worldwide. It would also improve the country's antiterrorism efforts.