In the dying days of the 40th Parliament of Canada, the Liberals are now rallying around an "unprecedented contempt" motion as one of their main talking points for the upcoming campaign. For starters, the reason this rarely happens is because it can really only happen in a minority Parliament. Only about 1/4 of our elections produce minorities, so this is unprecedented with a historical sample size of about a dozen. Of those other minority governments, when the House lost confidence they voted no confidence at their nearest opportunity. They never used to go to the trouble to hold committees on contempt, loaded with opposition members granted by an opposition House Speaker.
What's unprecedented is how long this minority government of Stephen Harper has lasted, and no previous minority government had to deal with a 24 hour news cycle and the internet. Well Paul Martin did and it destroyed him. What the opposition has done in 2011 is just conjure up a procedural gimmick to parade in the media in an effort to damage the Prime Minister. They have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the PM since he was elected, and it hasn't even made a dent. Is the contempt idea going to work? I guess we will soon find out.