Congratulations, it was nice knowing you

I can not help but feel sorry for Stephen Harper. Moments before I began to write this entry a motion to amend a Public Accounts Committee report barely passed in the House of Commons with the support of all Bloc and Conservative MPs. Although today’s vote was on a procedural matter, and thus is not a matter of confidence, despite what any Conservative mouthpiece might tell you, it will no doubt force the government to schedule a confidence vote in the near future. This vote will likely occur within the week, and will likely lead to the defeat of the government.

If this has been the goal of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, why does he receive my sympathy? Because Harper has pushed himself into an election that will most likely cost him his position as leader of the Conservative Party. In contrast, the other opposition parties will emerge from this 38th Parliament as clear winners. The Bloc will certainly gain seats in the next election, while the NDP may gain a seat or two, but will also gain legitimacy as the party that most successfully advanced their policy in the 38th sitting. Remember that when the Liberals campaign this go around, with their NDP backed budget the centerpiece of their platform, they will not be campaigning from the left to govern from the right, but will actually be campaigning from the left of centre to govern from the centre! As for Harper, the best he can hope for is that enough Ontario Liberals stay home that the Conservatives squeak out a minority government. However, in this scenario it won’t take long for him to realize that the only goals the Bloc and he shared were the defeat of the Liberals, and that friends in the House are hard to come by. The rest of the story writes itself; anyone want to handicap the field of the next Conservative leadership race?



  1. Gnomes said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 10:40 am

    “Conservative mouthpiece” is the last phrase anyone would choose to describe me, but what happened on Tuesday was absolutely a confidence vote. I’m generally a fan of technicalities, but in this case the context is unimportant. The essential question is whether the government has the confidence of the majority of the House of Commons. Whether this is determined by a simple confidence motion, a supply or tax bill, or a mere “procedural matter” is irrelevant.

    The government is responsible to the House, and must maintain their support in order to have Constitutional authority to govern. In the words of Queen Victoria in Heritage Minute: “Responsible government… it’s a Canadian idea! Very well Lord Melbourne, we think we know what we must do.”

  2. Manatee said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 11:22 am

    In a responsible parliament yesterdays vote would trigger an actual confidence vote in a timely manner. When Major’s government lost a similar vote in the early 1990’s, they quickly offered the House an actual Confidence measure to bvote on, and remained in power. In 1968 when a budget measure did not pass, the opposition allowed a re-vote once the government had a chance to get their butts in their seats. I didn’t hear Harper suggest a revote once the two absent ministers and the potential vote tieing independent have an opportunity to be in the House. The power hungery Harper clearly does not have the class of Robert Stanfield (but may share his electoral success). Martin will shortly schedule a vote on his budget to determine the confidece of the House. I know elections are exciting, but I can wait a day or two before the fun starts. Of course, there is still a chance the budget will pass, making those claiming yesterdays vote was a vote of confidence look even more foolish.

  3. Gnomes said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 11:59 am

    I can agree that waiting until Cadman, Cotler and Efford are in the House would be the classy thing to do, but ultimately I don’t see the point. The Liberals could survive a confidence motion with the support of the independants and the Speaker’s tie-breaker, but how can they get their budget passed?

    In my opinion, Milliken must vote against the budget in the event of a tie, according to established principles. The Speaker’s vote shouldn’t be responsible for the House passing legislation. His role is to be impartial, so ultimately I don’t think it’s proper to rely upon him in order to maintain the confidence of the House.

  4. Manatee said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 12:21 pm

    I believe his role is to be impartial in his role as speaker, but in the event his vote is needed to break a tie he must vote to maintain the status quo. Since the status quo is the 38th Parliament, his vote in favour of the budget would be a vote to maintain the staus quo, according to established principles.

  5. Gnomes said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 12:33 pm

    The status quo is no budget passed, and I think the Speaker’s vote must look at the specific issue in question, not all of the potential ramifications. If a majority of the House, excepting the Speaker, cannot agree on a bill, it should not be passed.

    The reason that a government must resign after failing a budget vote is because it doesn’t have the confidence of the majority. Martin doesn’t have the support of the majority of the Members. It’s circular to say that Milliken can break precedent and vote to pass legislation just so as to demonstrate otherwise.

  6. Manatee said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 6:21 pm

    In the event that the House is full, I certainly would not be calling for the Speaker’s head were he to vote in favour of a Bill that otherwise would dissolve Parliament. I would like to see you find an example of a Speaker of any Commenwealth Parliament voting his Party out of Government to maintain his objectivity!

    Of course, if the budget is passed it will most likly be due to absences in the House, and I’m not so sure the Liberals would even want it to pass. They really are quite good at winning elections, especially when they set the terms (although they could use some work on managing a minority).

  7. Angry Canadian said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 7:15 pm

    Todays happenings lead me to believe that neither the Liberals nor the COnservatives care if this argument is resolved or not. Both parties are only interested in going into an election on their own terms. Today Stephen Harper took Canada’s ball and went home, and the Liberals not only allowed it to happen, but actually voted in favour of it! Are the NDP the only party with any respect for parliament? Are the NDP the only party trying to get anything useful done?

  8. Gnomes said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 8:13 pm

    If the Liberals want to be defeated on the budget, today is was good a day as any. I don’t see why they are waiting for 8 days unless it is in the hopes of squeaking out a victory.

    As for Milliken, I don’t believe any Speaker in Canadian history has been required to cast a tie-breaking vote on an issue of confidence, but for it to even be required would be a good indication the government should resign.

  9. Manatee said,

    Wednesday, 11 May 2005 at 8:30 pm

    I am concerned that they are waiting so long. I suppose their thinking is the longer they wait, the further removed from yesterdays vote, the more they are able to spin a loss on the budget as a Conservative rejection of Canadian values (while a vote today could have easily been spun as a continuation of yesterdays ‘nonconfidence vote’.

    I’m curious how many days until next thursday our MP’s will call it a day early. Angry Canadian has likely stumbled on a major plank of the NDP’s upcoming campaign- actually trying to do their job!

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