Monday, March 07, 2011

(Not) Confidence motion coming this week?

I heard the rumour from three different people over the weekend, and it has exploded today thanks to a Hill Times story - there's a possibility we could be into an election campaign by week's end.

The cause of this is an obscure parliamentary procedure, allowing MPs to move a vote of non-confidence after a point of privilege ruling, so long as the cats behind Parliament Hill see their shadow that same morning. Or something like that.

Really, outside of Peter Miliken and Kady O'Malley, it's unlikely anyone in Canada really understands the procedural somersaults involved. And the procedure isn't important here - the result is. Here's the result:

1. Depending when the speaker rules, we'd be into an election campaign a week or two earlier than previously expected. With Jack Layton still on crutches, this leads me to wonder if the NDP won't support the government on any Liberal motion, at least until the budget. You couldn't really fault them for that.

2. The election trigger would not be the budget. While election triggers are rarely talked about for more than a few days, this would save the opposition from having to vote against a budget which could contain tax cuts or other pre-election treats. Rather, in Bev Oda's honour, they'd be able to craft a "not confidence" motion which focuses on Harper's contempt of Parliament.

The downside to this is that the budget may very well be vulnerable to attack, while the speaker's ruling does indirectly involve Harper's "tough on crime" legislation. So it's not a slam dunk by any means.

At the very least, if the Liberals are considering this, it should be taken as a sign they're ready to go. So, as we've been saying for a month, it all comes down to Jack Layton.



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