A Commons committee has found the minority Conservatives in contempt of Parliament, essentially charging the ruling party with breaking the rules of government.
On Monday morning, the Commons procedures and House affairs committee began a clause-by-clause debate of its report containing allegations the government kept information and spending estimates concerning tax cuts, prison expansions and fighter-jet procurement secret.
While the government argued the details in question were subject to cabinet confidentiality, opposition MPs countered that they needed to know everything the government did in order to make an informed decision.
The opposition-dominated committee, which has already rejected several Tory-backed changes to the report, is expected to conclude the debate and report back to the House before the end of the day.
The committee met for three days last week, to probe allegations the government breached parliamentary privilege on two fronts: by failing to share cost estimates, and by International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda's alleged involvement in a handwritten "not" scrawled on an international aid agency's already-signed funding proposal.
During question period in the House of Commons Monday, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Canadians will find it hard to trust the Tories in the face of "such flagrant abuse of power."
Government House Leader John Baird countered that the Conservative government brought greater accountability to Parliament Hill.
"Let me be very clear, this government is the government who acted very expeditiously to bring in the Federal Accountability Act, to clean up the ethical mess that we inherited from the previous Liberal government," Baird said.
Monday's report, which focuses on the cost estimates, is expected to be tabled in the House of Commons by Liberal MP David McGuinty following question period. The Conservatives say they will attach a two-page dissenting report. A separate report on whether Oda intentionally misled Parliament is not expected until Friday.
In Ottawa, CTV's Richard Madan explained that while the content of the reports may prove embarrassing to the Government, the real political damage may come from what the Opposition does with them.
The findings of either report could be used to bolster a make-or-break vote in the House, he said.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is set to table the government's latest federal budget on Tuesday. It will be debated on Wednesday and then put to a vote as early as Thursday.
When pressed to reveal his plans to topple the government or not in the coming days, [Liberal Opposition Leader] Michael Ignatieff refused to be pinned down.
"I honestly don't know what's going to happen this week but I'm ready for anything. We could go (to the polls) this week or next year," Ignatieff told CTV's Question Period on Sunday.
Watching developments on Parliament Hill, CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife said although the signs are pointing to an inevitable election call, "Anything can happen in politics."
For example, Fife told CTV News Channel on Monday, the Government could have a few surprises in store for its budget announcement.
"If the government decides to put in some goodies that might entice the NDP or the Bloc Quebecois to support them, if they are able to do that, they might survive," Fife said, adding in that case, "there would probably not be an election until next year."
The Bloc could be swayed, for instance, if a reported $2-billion compensation package for Quebec's signing onto a harmonized sales tax scheme with Ottawa in 1992 makes an appearance. With their 47 seats in the House of Commons, pulling in the support of the Bloc could have a significant impact on the Conservatives' political prospects.
Because the ruling Conservatives hold 143 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, they need the support of at least one opposition party to survive any votes of confidence in the House.
Liberals currently hold 77 seats, the NDP 36, with five seats either held by independents or vacant.
If the Government falls this week, it's widely expected Canadians will be called to vote in a federal election on May 2.