The Harper government will introduce an unusual confidence motion as early as Monday demanding that the Senate pass the Conservative's crime bill by March 1.
The motion, which puts the Opposition Liberals in an awkward and potentially embarrassing situation, could trigger an election if it fails in the House of Commons.
An unusual confidence motion, yes indeed, as the Globe notes:
Since the House has already passed the bill, and by law has no power to compel the Senate to do anything, the gesture was baldly political.
Quite possibly making the whole motion unconstitutional, out of order, and so on and so forth. Which raises the question, how should the opposition parties respond?
Should they ask the speaker for a ruling? That’s one option, and if ruled out of order, would leave the Conservatives to have to fall back to one of the 306 other confidence motions they have in the works.
The opposition could also opt to let the motion go ahead, and just abstain to demonstrate what a politically-motivated farce it is. The motion would pass and…nothing would happen, since constitutionally the House of Commons can’t direct the Senate where the bathroom is. Heck, you can’t even say the word “Senate” in the House of Commons. You need to call it “the other place.”
It’s the third possibility that I find amusing to wildly speculate about. Let’s say the opposition decide to let the motion go forward, and they decide to vote it down, saying this motion is unconstitutional and we’re voting it down, but we don’t accept that a hair-brained, unconstitutional motion is a legitimate confidence motion.
I’m reminded of these comments by Stephen Harper on motions of confidence when he was the opposition leader. It’s with the CBC’s Evan Solomon. This was a time when Harper worried the Liberals would try to engineer a snap election, and he was fighting to have confidence motions defined as narrowly as possible. I believe something like “Paul Martin can’t just call anything he wants a confidence motion” was once said.
Solomon: So why did you write that letter to the Governor-General with Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton saying in the event of a confidence vote situation do not call a snap election - are we to assume that therefore you're working to form a coalition?
Harper: There seems to be an attitude in the Liberal government - that they can go in, be deliberately defeated and call an election - that's not how our constitutional system works. The government has a minority - it has an obligation to demonstrate to Canadians that it can govern. That it can form a majority in the House of Commons. If it can't form a majority, we look at other options, we don't just concede to the government's request to make it dysfunctional. I know for a fact that Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Layton and the people who work for them want this Parliament to work and I know if is in all of our interests to work. The government has got to face the fact it has a minority, it has to work with other people.
Alrighty then, so back to our near future hypothetical scenario. Harper’s alleged confidence motion fails. He goes to the GG and asks her to dissolve parliament and call an election. She could say sure, you got it Steve. Or might she say to her advisers hey, this motion he came in to see me on looks rather wonky. Should I tell him to go back and try it again? Or, maybe should I call in the leader of the opposition and consult him? After all, that’s what Harper asked for back in 2004.
So she calls in Stephane Dion, and she says, Harper says he has lost the confidence of the house, would you like to give it a try? Sure, he says, I’ll give it a shot. So he puts together a cabinet, Iggy as DPM and maybe DND, and let’s say he goes even further and makes Bob Rae minister of foreign affairs, and puts Gerard Kennedy and Martha-Hall Findlay in cabinet too. Why not? They’re already running in by-elections, the precedent is sound, and we could just say Michael Fortier… David Emerson will ask for a job, but we’ll politely decline.
So, Dion gets sworn in as Prime Minister, maybe has a Throne Speech all about Liberal priorities, maybe not, but anyway he tests the house, promptly loses, and then we get an election campaign with Dion campaigning as Prime Minister, a la Arthur Meighan.
Or, let’s say between now and this Senate motion Dion gets together with Layton and Duceppe and they work out a deal. We vote down this motion, and if Harper insists its confidence we call shenanigans and insist she consult the opposition. Either a coalition or Liberal minority is formed, and the BQ, Libs and NDP agree to pass some pre-agreed to legislation. Like, say, a real economic aid package. Or maybe they find common agreement on Afghanistan, pass a motion and pull the troops out of combat. Then, after they’ve passed their common legislation, the government falls and all three can campaign on its accomplishments and fight it out, having actually gotten something done for Canadians.
Do I think any of this could ever actually happen? Not really. Not a chance. But it is fun to speculate, isn’t it? And as long as this government is going to behave wildly, I'm going to wildly speculate.
Anyway, seems one way or another we’ll be in an election mighty soon. I'd guess on the budget. But then again, we’ve said that before too, haven't we? Time will tell.
Let’s just try to get it done before baseball season starts, I plan on seeing a lot of Jays games this year. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers