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May 30, 2005
Confidence Votes This Week? More Or Less

Canadian politics may have taken a breath after the failure of the Conservative/BQ no-confidence efforts on May 19th, but all indications are that they will come back into full swing this week. Despite a hasty comment by Stephen Harper earlier this month that the Tories would "probably" not try again if their first attempt failed to bring down the Liberal government, the CPC has made it clear that they plan to contest another confidence motion this week:

The House of Commons is heading back to work after a week off, with the Conservatives holding what they say is a loaded gun to the head of the governing Liberals and threatening another non-confidence vote as soon as Tuesday.

Jay Hill, the Tory House leader, said Sunday his party hasn't settled yet on its final strategy. But he pointedly refused to rule out a new confidence test, despite the fact that Prime Minister Paul Martin survived one just 10 days ago.

As long as we have this loaded gun sitting there, they're going to have to take it seriously, Mr. Hill said in an interview.

That motion has already been tabled. They also want to work on stripping C-48 out of the budget in committee, a move that the CPC hopes will convince the NDP to switch sides and support the Tory/BQ alliance and convincingly oust Paul Martin. However, BQ leader Giles Duceppe has suddenly opened the possibility that they will support the budget -- if the Liberals can cough up money for Quebec in the same manner that Martin did for Jack Layton and the NDP:

The Tories and Bloc Quebecois are charting different courses in the wake of their failed attempt at toppling the Liberal government, with Gilles Duceppe suggesting he might support the federal budget if it includes more spending on Quebec priorities.

"We want (the budget) not to be adopted and so we'll vote against it - unless there's something new in that budget that we think could be good for Quebec," Duceppe said yesterday on CTV's Question Period. ...

Though Bloc officials acknowledged it might be too late to bring amendments, Duceppe's suggestion that he might seek funding for Quebec put him in a crowded category.

Premiers from Ontario, Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada have each met with the Liberals over the past few months to secure more spending for programs, as did the NDP in its deal to back the budget.

In other words, Quebec wants to join Let's Make A Deal, with Paul Martin continuing his role as Monty Hall. If Martin can promise even more taxpayer funds for Quebec, the BQ might follow the NDP into the Liberal alliance -- making the Tories feel mighty lonely.

At some point, Canadian taxpayers might need Stephen Hawking to keep track of how much Martin's efforts to retain power has cost them, now and in the future. This episode has turned a common experience in all representative governments -- the Granting Of The Pork -- into a strange public and personal spectacle centering on Paul Martin. Never before have we seen such blatant buying and selling of influence in order for one man to keep his hands on the levers of government; in this case, it truly reminds one of the old analogy of sausage-making. The difference is that Adscam has turned Canadian politics into an HBO Undercover documentary, and we found out that sausagemaking in Canada has become a one-man monopoly.

It appears that the CPC will have to match Martin dollar for dollar in order to hang onto its current position, which already is at a disadvantage for a no-confidence motion. Either that, or they need to take some bold steps to differentiate themselves from Martin's sausage grinder and become the party of fiscal sanity and responsibility, and start playing for the long game rather than hoping to turn out the Liberals this summer. The latter strategy may grant less satisfaction but probably will guarantee more success in the future.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 30, 2005 10:37 AM

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