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May 15, 2005
One Roll Of The Dice

The Conservatives have decided to stop playing games with Parliamentary obstruction -- a game they have won for three straight days -- and focus their entire effort to topple the government on the upcoming budget motion Thursday:

The federal Conservatives, after a week of bitter parliamentary gamesmanship, now appear willing to pin their hopes for a spring election on one high-stakes roll of the dice Thursday when the federal budget comes to a vote.

We will respect that vote, Jay Hill, Tory House Leader in the Commons, said Sunday.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has said that, if his minority Liberal government loses the budget showdown, it will mean an immediate election.

It's been unclear until now what would happen if the government wins. Under parliamentary rules the Conservatives could still try to table another non-confidence motion to bring down the government later in the current session.

Mr. Hill signalled, however, that his party would likely decide to back off if it can't topple Mr. Martin this week. If circumstances don't change I suspect we (wouldn't) see any further action prior to the summer recess, he told reporters.

The Tories have decided that if this vote cannot bring down the government that any other no-confidence motion won't succeed either, and will wait until the autumn session to review their options. The Liberals have apparently also agreed to pair off votes for the people who won't be able to make the Thursday vote due to health concerns -- a solution made possible by the NDP's Ed Broadbent, who threatened to impose such a solution unilaterally on Friday.

Harper's decision to let it ride on the budget vote seems rather surprising. In fact, I had guessed that he might bypass the budget as a confidence vote and instead wait for an Opposition Day to table a pure no-confidence motion. He's probably correct to assume that a failure on this vote means anything else won't work under the same conditions, but with the Gomery Inquiry still in operation, those conditions change every day. Why limit the options up front? Especially since putting the vote on a budget issue plays directly into the Liberal strategy; it almost appears as if Harper wants to fight this battle on Martin's terms to prove a point.

If so, Harper better hope he wins. If he loses on this one occasion, he may wind up spending a summer regretting his big-stakes gamble.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 15, 2005 8:54 PM

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