Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Not If, But When

There was high drama in the House of Commons today, as Peter Milliken dug into the annals parliamentary tradition to rule on a pair of contempt motions put forward by Liberal MPs against the Conservative government. For those curious about what Speaker Lamoureux had to say in 1966 and how it's relevant today, the transcripts are available here. It's actually worth a read, if only because it may prove to be one of Peter Miliken's final rulings as speaker.

That's because the election train is picking up more and more speed by the day. The only thing that can stop it now would be the NDP - we don't know what Layton will decide, but from their tone in the house today, they certainly don't sound like a party looking for a way out.

So unless the NDP backs down or Harper prorogues (ha ha), the question becomes how the 40th parliament will meet its demise. Among the possibilities:

A. Defeat on the budget, slated to be tabled March 22nd, and voted on later that week in a series of confidence motions.

B. Defeat on an opposition motion: Although today's rulings did not trigger an immediate confidence motion, the committee exploring these issues is scheduled to report back to the House of Commons on March 21st and March 25th. Either could lead to a confidence vote, but if the Tories are set on tabling a budget, it's entirely in their power to delay the vote until after Budget Day.

The end result of these two possibilities is essentially the same: Canadians see the budget, and we all go to the polls on May 2nd or May 9th.

There is, however, a third option:

C. Harper goes to the GG and pulls the plug, like he did in 2008.

Now, there are some good reasons for Harper to wait. He can blame the opposition for causing an election nobody wants. He can show Just Visiting ads on every hockey game and cricket match for the next two weeks, without worrying about election spending limits. And he gets to table what most assume will be a voter-friendly budget.

That said, as Globe blogger Rob Silver argues, there are good reasons to pay a visit to Rideau Hall before then:

If I were Stephen Harper, given the pile of scandals that have the potential to become a dominant election issue (and there is no reason at this time to think that any of the scandals Harper is facing is harming him electorally), I think it would be foolhardy to give the opposition two extra weeks to lay tracks.

And heck, he can just turn the budget into his campaign platform anyways. Plus, it lets Harper get that messy election business over with before the Royal Wedding.

Add it all up and I tend to think we're in for two weeks of phony war before the campaign kicks off.

That said, if I were David Johnson, I wouldn't be making any March break travel plans. Just in case.

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  • Harpers rope has sill some left, before the end , so let's not be in a rush!

    By Anonymous Annie, at 7:44 p.m.  

  • "Harper goes to the GG and pulls the plug"

    He probably will do just that.

    I don't know why I didn't think of that before. The most obvious thing right in front of our noses. I knew it was suspicious when it was announced earlier today that he was going to the royal shindig--no way he'd go overseas just days before an election.

    I'd start taking bets right now that Harper is going to pull the plug himself.

    By Anonymous ck, at 8:09 p.m.  

  • Harper will make the Coalition do the nasty.

    They can bring down the Harper Government one day before the budget is tabled,
    after the Coalition Kangaroo Court they call a committee, finds the Govt in contempt,
    or after.

    It won't make a bit of difference on the election outcome.

    By Blogger wilson, at 10:20 p.m.  

  • There is NO CHANCE AT ALL of Harper dissolving Parliament himself. The Tories have invested wayyyy too much into the notion of the "opposition coalition" forcing an election "Canadians don't want" (sic.) there is no advantage to him to lose having that card to play.

    By Blogger DL, at 10:33 p.m.  

  • Harper is between the devil and the deep blue sea.

    He likely would relish pulling the plug. He is like the gambler who keeps doubling his bets when he is down. Either he goes bankrupt or he recovers all his losses. Besides, it makes him feel in charge, you know, like making the rules about when Canadians get an election?

    However, if he does pull the plug, it would clearly save the opposition having to be on the defensive about causing the election. Instead the evil coalition can gladly point out the hypocrisy of his blaming the others for wanting an election. It would also fit into the narrative that this guy cannot be trusted at all. More importantly, there goes the "idiot" votes (you know, the ones who say they will vote against any party that trigger an election)?

    In the meanwhile, the opposition will be using the next two weeks to intensify their attacks ... so, pull the plug, yes, no, ... do you think it is easy to make priorities? Funny how things come around to bite you (Dion must be laughing his a** off).

    For many non Cons supporters, I suspect they will be saying: Come on, make our day, pull the plug .... pretty please with a cherry on top, eh? If Iggy, Layton and Duceppe cannot outcanvass this Hubris guy, with all the scandals, then we are in trouble anyway.

    Wilson is here but where is CanadianSense? Is she on vacation?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:56 p.m.  

  • You're probably right - he dearly wants to play the coalition card, and that works better if he's brought down in the house. Coincidence or not, I've seen quite a few "coalition" ads on TV in recent days.

    And it certainly would be odd to launch an "IgnatieffsElection" website a few days before Harper forces an election himself.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:15 a.m.  

  • Oh, and I'll add, David Akin tweeted yesterday that "government sources" said there was no chance Harper would prorogue or ask for an election.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:16 a.m.  

  • It took me a minute to remember who David Johnson was. Pretty low-key GG thus far.

    By Anonymous daveberta, at 10:59 a.m.  

  • It took me a minute to remember who David Johnson was. Pretty low-key GG thus far.

    By Anonymous daveberta, at 11:05 a.m.  

  • Hurray, an election. I'll probably spoil my ballot unless some local candidate shines -- at least we'll have a shot at a few new leaders though...

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 11:33 a.m.  

  • I just watched Bob Fife take 5 full minutes to explain what happened in Parliament yesterday.

    Good luck with that as the reason to bring down the Govt.
    All the buzz words Fife used,
    were those Canadians have been hearing since Milliken ruled on the Afghan detainee issue.

    And then there will be the committees.
    Give your head a shake if you think the Harper Govt will just sit back and take a beating.

    By Blogger wilson, at 11:41 a.m.  

  • Wilson - Words like "money laundering", "contempt of parliament ruling", and "lied" may be stretching In and Out, yesterday's rulings, and the Oda afair a bit, but the Libs could probably get away with them in an election campaign and they're certainly words Canadians can understand.

    They can't win an election on ethics alone, but it's a narrative that is definitely gaining momentum.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:36 p.m.  

  • wilson, I seem to recall back in 2004-05 how Liberal defenders were arguing, very much like yourself, about the complexity of the sponsorship scandal and how it wasn't helping Harper in the polls. Too much information for the voters to figure out - ya that sounds familiar to me.

    Oda selling two stories in the HOC - that's called LYING!

    Invoices for ad buys spelled 'nvoice' for which the company's name used states they are not theirs - that's called FRAUD!

    Harper not revealing the cost details of his law & order agenda to the democratically elected HOC - that's CONTEMPT OF PARLIAMENT!

    Those concepts are not very hard for voters to figure out ...except for trolls like yourself.

    By Blogger Tof KW, at 1:59 p.m.  

  • Considering that the two Speaker's rulings yesterday went against the "Harper Government" on matters that go to the core of our democratic institutions, and considering the Bloc motion before the House today listing the litany of anti-democratic acts of the Harper Government, I think it's inevitable that we're headed into an election.

    It may not be the budget that brings down the government, but if the parliamentary privileges motions come back from committee and result in the House of Commons finding the Harper Government in contempt of Parliament, I have to believe that there will be a confidence motion introduced related to that. I can't see how the Harper Government could win that confidence motion. All things considered, the opposition parties would have no choice but to vote non-confidence. But that's just my opinion.

    As to Harper going to the GG. I doubt it. Considering the huge drop the Conservatives suffered in the polls after the last prorogation and considering that Harper has already broken his own fixed election date law once, I can't believe he would go that route. There would be just too much political fallout from that. (Which is what makes me hope he does it. But, like I said, I doubt it.)

    By Anonymous Joel Klebanoff, at 2:14 p.m.  

  • Wilson = Liberal apologists who think the LPC got a bum rap on Sponsorship.

    Every post is the same, he's a clown.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 3:02 p.m.  

  • Time for a history lesson:

    "Interesting to note that the same Mr. Milliken found prima facia evidence of contempt of parliament against Art Eggleton(2002) and Anne McLellan(2001). In both cases the matter was sent to committee where a Liberal majority exonerated the cabinet ministers. I don’t recall The Star, or CBC being particularly agitated by either case. Contempt of parliament charges could only be secured by vote in a minority parliament situation."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:27 p.m.  

  • I do have a simple question. What about the Liberals that still owe Elections Canada money for leadership race? They keep getting extensions.

    Will they be able to run in coming election?

    If they do, then the Cons could say that Elections Canada are favoring the Liberals and not enforcing their own laws.

    Just a thought.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:29 p.m.  

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