After initially indicating they would thwart the proposal with procedural trickery, the Conservatives allowed a vote on the motion to proceed late today.
The motion was defeated 144 to 132, with just three Conservative MPs choosing to support it: James Rajotte, Brian Storseth and Michael Chong, the architect of a private member's bill aimed at giving MPs more individual power.
A fourth Tory MP, Susan Truppe, voted for the motion initially, but later said she'd done so in error.
"This is quite disappointing," said NDP House leader Peter Julian, who called the motion's failure proof that the government believes it doesn't have to answer legitimate questions.
The New Democrats introduced the motion after receiving unrelated, unsatisfactory answers last week to pointed questions about Canadian soldiers in Iraq.
The Opposition's pleas for help went unheeded by Speaker Andrew Scheer, who said he can only intervene on inappropriate questions, not the answers.
"When buffoonery and personal attacks are the response to legitimate questions on issues like deploying Canadian soldiers on a military mission to Iraq, it's clear that something is broken in Ottawa and the Conservatives don't care to fix it," Julian said in a statement following the vote.
On Monday, the Tories came out swinging against the NDP, saying the motion would unfairly penalize the government. But they appeared to abandon a competing motion that would have effectively killed the NDP measure.
Julian wrote a letter to Conservatives pleading for their support, calling the effort to get better answers out of question period a modest, non-partisan step towards improving the daily give-and-take.
"This motion will not cure all that ails our democracy. This motion will not even cure all that ails question period," he wrote.
"But what it will do is ensure that ministers and parliamentary secretaries are required to at least attempt to address questions that are asked of them."
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