Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Accidentally on Purpose

There's a lot of buzz around Don Martin's column today, titled "Speaker's ruling may trigger election nobody wants". Here's the crux of it:


It's a safe bet Milliken will deliver a balanced response aimed at forcing both sides to seek a middle ground. But there's considerable doubt it will offer a final solution.

Prime Minister Harper is ready to reject outright any Speaker order to surrender more unedited documents to this Parliament. If MPs are granted access to the files by the Speaker, they cannot run away from a fight lest their parliamentary precedent-setting victory ring hollow.

That risks turning the prime minister versus Parliament showdown into a no-win tug-of-war where everybody loses in an election nobody wants.


In minority governments, we hear about "accidental" elections quite often. After all, there needs to be some way to write election speculation columns at times when none of the parties are chomping at the bit to go to the polls.

But personally, I don't buy it. Short of a party whip telling his MPs to vote the wrong way (ha ha, like that would ever happen!), the parties generally know what the consequences of their actions are. Yes, issues can emerge to raise the temperature. But, if no one wants an election, there's always a compromise that can be reached. And when there isn't a compromise, they can simply say the electorate doesn't want an election, and vote accordingly.

Take this stand-off over detainee documents. Say the speaker rules the Tories must hand them over. Well, if Harper doesn't want an election, he can just bloody well hand them over. If he doesn't, well, it will still take a non-confidence vote to bring the government down - any one of the opposition parties can simply abstain on the vote to save the government. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.

I tend to doubt Canadians will be tuning in to Milliken’s ruling this afternoon as if it were a Tiger Woods press conference. So the political hit anyone will take for backing down on this is minimal.

The bottom line is this - if no one wants an election, we won't get one.

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9 Comments:

  • Agreed.

    But, the most logical conclusion is that Milliken will side with the gov't.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:42 PM  

  • With today's report that the Conservatives and Liberals are both polling at under 30 per cent for the first time, there won't be an election.
    The HST is hurting the Conservatives in BC, Charest is hurting the Liberals in Quebec. Both parties need time to come back.
    There will be a by-election in a safe NDP seat in Winnipeg that will test the Tories and Grits.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 1:14 PM  

  • The speaker cannot order the government to do anything. He can only rule if there has been a prima facie case of contempt or not. If he rules that there has been a prima facie case of contempt, the House of Commons immediately considers a motion from the Member who raised the matter. This motion (which may be debated and amended) usually seeks to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for further study. It is given precedence over all Orders of the Day (but it does not displace Routine Proceedings, Statements by Members, Question Period, Royal Assent, or the adjournment of the House), and debate on it concludes with a vote on the motion. If the motion is defeated, no further action is taken.

    If the motion is adopted, its terms are implemented – usually the matter is referred to and studied by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is entitled to order the production of documents, to summon and question witnesses. The Committee prepares and adopts a report of its findings and recommendations. This report is presented in the House, usually by the Chair of the Committee. A motion to agree to the report may subsequently be adopted by the House of Commons, thereby endorsing the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations. This may result in an order of the House that a specific action be taken or measure implemented.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:32 PM  

  • I think there will be one. Witness the Harper government's pandering on the abortion issue in recent days. They only haul out that crap if they think a poll is imminent.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:54 PM  

  • What I find most interesting in Martin's article is the groundwork he lays in the first few paragraphs for the Cons to use to smear Milliken should he rule against them.

    By Blogger Jymn Parrett, at 2:56 PM  

  • Jymn - Milliken was elected with a lot of Tories supporting him. Plus, he has a reputation for being fair.

    It wouldn't at all surprise me to see the Tories go after him, but they'd be on shaky ground to do it.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 4:22 PM  

  • Where can we find out how the Speaker ruled on this?

    By Blogger mezba, at 4:27 PM  

  • So, I do not actually consider this may have success.

    By Anonymous www.webhablada.es, at 11:43 AM  

  • By Blogger mmjiaxin, at 8:17 PM  

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