The bill was being presented at report stage, and the government was expecting debate to continue for some time, as a member of the New Democratic Party caucus had proposed several amendments. Instead, though, the mover of the amendments hid outside the House when the bill was called, prompting the Assistant Deputy Speaker not to proceed with the amendments, and to go directly to the vote at report stage after sixty minutes of ringing the attendance bells.
Even after an hour of summoning members of Parliament from around the parliamentary precinct (and with many ministers away at economic meetings or at funerals), the votes came to 139 for the bill, and 139 against the bill. The Speaker was put into the rare position of having to use their casting vote — and following tradition, the Speaker voted in favour of the bill in the hopes that the House can come to its own decision by the time the bill approaches third reading.
If the vote had fallen by one for the government, the prime minister might have been in the rather embarrassing position of either turning the House upside-down in an attempt to maneuver an express vote re-committing the House's confidence in the government, or heading down to Rideau Hall to seek a dissolution of the legislature and a general election.