Accidentally on Purpose
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.