Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Clever Compromise

Jack Layton is now the man with the plan. Jack has announced the NDP will be proposing a motion on their opposition day for an early January election call, triggering a February vote.

Before everyone jumps in with their opinion on this, I'm going on record to say this plan is extremelly clever and it will work.

I still think Harper blew a golden chance by not going straight for the jugular, but Layton's timing works well for the opposition parties for several reasons:

1. It moves the vote up nearly two months, limiting the dissipating of Adscam anger.
2. They won't get blamed for triggering a Christmas election.
3. They won't get blamed for disrupting Paul's agenda.
4. The vote will likely be timed to be within a week or two of Gomery's second report. Although that report won't be damning, it will remind people of Adscam, giving the issue life down the homestretch of the campaign.
5. This will also prevent Martin from saying "why don't we wait for Gomery" - because the final report will be out by the time the vote occurs.
6. Most importantly, it won't allow Goodale to bring forward a budget before the vote.

Because Layton is framing it as a choice between an election over Christmas and a vote in February, I suspect most Canadians will see it as a reasonable compromise. And, because of that, it will be very difficult for Martin not to go along with it. Since the motion Layton will introduce on the 24th won't be an explicit non-confidence motion, I suspect the vote won't be binding. But will all the media attention that's sure to follow the vote, Martin really won't have an option but to accept it. And, if by some chance, he refuses to accept the vote, the stage would be set for the opposition parties to bring down the government on December 8th, or on their next opposition day, with all the blame resting squarely on Paul's shoulders.

While election speculation has been changing on an almost nightly basis over the past week, I'm fairly confident to say that we're heading towards a February vote. I really can't see this plan not being put into effect.


  • Jack has nothing to lose. He's secured his base (as confirmed by the latest polls) and only stands to gain from the compromise solution you've outlined. Harper seems much more reluctant to pull the trigger because he has a lot more to lose. His own career as leader, for one. But the longer he dithers over this, the worse it makes him look.

    By Blogger Red Tory, at 4:38 p.m.  

  • What if Harper had said "non-con" Monday and Jack had said "Feb" today? Harper would've had his nose bloodied.

    By Blogger matt, at 4:39 p.m.  

  • I don't think it's all that great a plan. What will Martin do?If Layton's motion passed why wouldn't he go straight to a vote of confidence the very next day?

    He'd have all the moral high ground. The other parties would look like they've lost the actual plot and are only concerned with parlor games and it would still look like the opposition created the Xmas election.

    By Blogger KevinG, at 4:51 p.m.  

  • Layton's proposal amounts to a motion that the "Liberals have almost entirely lost the confidence of the House and will completely lose confidence in a month". It doesn't make sense, it doesn't work and I don't even think it's constitutional. You can't be partly pregnant. Cherniak has the legal analysis about right on this, as does Mark from Ottawa.

    As I commented on your other post: Why are they being so weezly about this. If Harper and Duceppe and Layton really think that Prime Minister Martin has lost the confidence of the House of Parliament, then they should bring a clear, straightforward non-confidence motion. Immediately. If Prime Minister Martin doesn't have the confidence of the House, as they claim, then I would think that they have a duty to bring such a motion as leaders of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.


    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 5:13 p.m.  

  • CG, you have it bang on.

    By Blogger RP., at 5:26 p.m.  

  • Obviously the motion isn't binding - I'm not arguing that.

    But it's all about the air war, rather than the procedural war. Layton's proposal is being called a "compromise" by all media outlets and I suspect people will see it as being very reasonable. That leaves Martin with 2 choices:

    1. He accepts the motion and the opposition gets the election when they want.

    2. He ignores the motion. In this case, he looks like he's ignoring the will of Parliament and is seen to be grasping to power.

    The opposition parties could then move confidence on their next opposition day and blame Martin. Then Paul comes across looking like the bad guy for the Christmas election because he rejected their compromise.

    It's a win-win for Layton.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 6:07 p.m.  

  • Another thing: if on November 24th this passes and then, out of the goodness of their hearts, the CPC, Bloc and Dippers allow the Liberals to govern, to pass legislation and spending bills, how on earth can anyone legally or constitutionally or sanely claim that the government has lost the confidence of Parliament?

    Only the Prime Minister can dissolve Parliament and, if "important work gets done" then clearly the government has not lost the confidence of the House. You can't be half pregnant. You can't be semi-non confident and expect that to be treated as non-confidence.

    When Martin just ignores him, and then Layton allows his party to continue to sit and vote (for or against bills) in Parliament, he will be tacitly recognizing the power and authority of the government to be the government.

    Layton has outsmarted himself on this one, I think.


    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 6:08 p.m.  

  • CG, we posted at the same time. Optically it may look good (to some) and play well (to some) now. But think about how the timing plays out in favour of Prime Minister Martin on this one:

    - so Nov. 25 comes along and the NDP gets its semi-non confidence motion passed. We agree its not binding. Fanfare by the opposition and the opposition blogosphere.

    - Nov. 26-Dec. 7: since the motion is to call an election sometime later in January, nothing affects anything until then so we don't know if the Liberals are going to be "arrogant" as you claim or accept the call then. They will probably have made vague public announcements about nothing until February which could be interpreted many different ways or come right out with an objection, but...

    - Dec. 8: spending bills brought forward. If these do not pass, clearly no confidence and Parliament dissolves. If they do pass: (1) it shows confidence in the government because the parties are continuing to participate and vote in the normal course, (2) the media and Canadians in general start to focus on what the Liberals are actually passing and getting done instead of technical motions, momentum lost (3) Canadians get on with their Christmas/holidays/New Years celebrating and (4) when it comes to the January date set for calling an election, what political pressure is there anymore at that point?

    Jack likes flash and spotlight and appearance of getting things done on his terms. He is not a long term thinker. This just shows it once again.


    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 6:16 p.m.  

  • Oh, good idea.

    The opposition then simply introduces a clear non-confidence motion, and Martin goes to the polls campaigning on some strange argument that he really did have the confidence of parliament, because hey, the spending bills passed.

    Good plan. Voters just love disingenuous hackery.

    Politics is all about appearances, and Layton is very good at appearances. People who haven't learned that over the past six months haven't been paying attention.

    Paul Martin is a lame duck and Stephen Harper has misplayed his hand so badly that he has made himself almost irrelevant. Strange but true: Jack Layton has the initiative, and he's using it.

    By Blogger AJSomerset, at 6:22 p.m.  

  • CalgaryGrit is right. A February election is coming. While Martin could try to play legal games with the motion, but this would be at his peril. I doubt electors would reward him for this.

    But he does have another option. Call an election for January 30. After all, elections don't always have to be the minimum length set by law. They can be longer. And then the campaign matters more.

    An extended campaign would be beneficial. All the parties would be bound by the spending limitations of the Canada Elections Act. Even third parties. And we would have a real campaign, not a phony campaign.

    Which sounds like a better idea to me.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:06 p.m.  

  • I say Harper will do a non con on the first opposition day.

    If he doesn't and we get to Layton's motion and if it passes Martin will ignore it and simply say "If they wanted parliament to fall they can call a non con vote. They didn't, it is the govnt's choice when to have the election otherwise"

    He's not going to back down from the "30 days after Gomery" promise.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:18 p.m.  

  • It's bullshit.

    And that's not a term I throw around lightly.

    None of the opposition parties want to have a Christmas election because they simply aren't ready.

    And they won't find 100, 150, 200 or in the case of the NDP 280+ decent candidates prepared to squander their family Christmas in an unwinnable election.

    The opposition parties know that they'll be stuck with freaks in an Xmas campaign. God knows the Tories want to do everything possible to minimize the freak factor. And the NDP may not be much better off.

    Not campaigning over the Christmas period--even with a short, respectful break--just isn't a good replacement for a nice family Christmas break.

    And Layton's proposal it isn't any more of real confidence motion than the one the Tories "won" last spring.

    If I was Paul Martin (shudder), I would introduce an early confidence motion, and promise to hold an election at the earliest possible moment if defeated. Simply put, if the government has lost confidence, a prompt election is required.

    Martin should make the opposition put their money where their mouths are. Canadians deserve better than scheming opposition politicians planning an election for their convenience.

    If the government has lost confidence, opposition members have an obligation, within the the traditions of the Parliamentary system, to move a real confidence vote.

    If they none of the opposition parties have the confidence to move a legitimate confidence vote, they should just quit whining and wait for Gomery, part II.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:41 p.m.  

  • This plan just gives Martin another month or so to bribe Jack. All it shows is that, as the Conservatives claimed, Jack wasn't actually serious when he said he was willing to bring down the government. In January, when the grace period comes to an end, and Martin sits tight, then we'll see.

    In the meantime, don't expect Martin to be offering Jack a big bribe - he clearly doesn't have to.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:43 p.m.  

  • I think that how it's accepted may hinge significantly on how the MSM treats it tomorrow. If the G&M and NP have headlines that have the term 'UNWORKABLE' or 'UNCONSTITUTIONAL'... ;)

    Anyways, I blogged my reaction to the strategy this afternoon. Count me in the supporters row. I think it's smart and workable.

    By Blogger Optimus, at 8:20 p.m.  

  • Cerberus is right that there is a duty, and Layton's plan isn't "legal" per se.

    But it really doesn't matter. Belindaweek, anyone?

    And, insofar as convention is malleable, the Globe is Liberal-inclined, and Canadians don't care, February it is unless Martin finds some gumption.

    By Blogger matt, at 8:39 p.m.  

  • I agree with the previous poster who suggested that if the opposition has lost confidence in this government, then they have lost confidence NOW! The opposition parties, particularly the Tories, should table a non-confidence vote as soon as possible to show Canadians they are sincere in bringing down this government due to corruption.

    However, since none of the opposition parties have the courage to do that, I do believe Jack's plan is the next best alternative.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:46 p.m.  

  • Canada: How to bell Martin the cat

    Re Layton and Harper, they are being too cute. Layton's latest proposal for an election in February makes sense but is unlikely to succeed. They have to vote nonconfidence to force the election. Now they're trying to avoid irritating voters by having election campaign over Xmas. They should vote nonconfidence and force Martin to set election date.

    The three opposition leaders are now working to find an acceptable compromise to bring down Martin. I hope they succeed. If voters give the Liberals a fifth term in the face of Adscam and Gomery, what will that say about the state of democracy in Canada? I foresee another minority(a slim one). This could be either Conservative or Liberal. In any case we could see the departure of either or both Martin and/or Harper before the follow-up election.

    By Blogger cardinal47, at 9:52 p.m.  

  • To Hell with Laytons proposal... they don't need it!

    pull the trigger NOW... the only people who don't want a Christmas election are the MP's and media... I dobut anyone else really cares

    By Blogger Sierra, at 11:38 p.m.  

  • Martin has one card left to play and that is the budget. He can argue that his party intends to table a budget before any election and that he will still keep his promise to call an election 30 days after Gomery.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:21 a.m.  

  • I don't like the idea of giving the Martin Team two weeks notice of a plan to sort of topple the government. They'll just do something screwy to keep Parliament from sitting that day.

    By far the better tactic, with Jack saying he is onside, is just to spring a real non-confidence motion on Tuesday, with as little advance notice as possible. I am betting that is what happens.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:15 a.m.  

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