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November 22, 2005
Liberals Refuse Compromise On Election

Instead of the expected no-confidence vote on an appropriation bill yesterday, the three Canadian opposition parties in Parliament joined to pass a bill urging February elections, offering one last opportunity to compromise on the fate of the government. Despite easily losing the vote, PM Paul Martin refused to agree to the conditions of the non-binding bill:

Oposition parties easily overpowered the government 167-129 Monday night in a vote on a non-binding motion calling for a Feb. 13 election.

The Liberals dismissed the opposition motion as a publicity stunt and prepared furiously for the more decisive showdown ahead.

Instead of working within the offered compromise, which would allow the Commons to continue working on the tax breaks promised by the Liberals and the spending bills needed to make all of the Ottawa politicians look good, the Liberals insist on making all such legislation hostage to the no-confidence vote. "Canadians will be asked to pay for the opposition's ambition and anger," warned Liberal spokesman Scott Reid, and that means that the same bills that the Liberals are now pushing -- tax breaks and special payments -- will wind up being opposed by a Liberal plurality if they lose the no-confidence motion before Parliament's term is over.

Jack Layton doesn't buy that argument, and has warned Martin that a failure to accept the offered compromise, which the NDP tabled, will result in a no-confidence motion as early as next Monday. That timing will ensure a holiday election season, but also will work for the Tories. The $28 billion tax cut comes up for a vote tomorrow, which means it can get passed before taking the government down.

It seems more than a little strange that Martin refuses to accept the compromise. He may think that he can still split the NDP from the Tories and BQ, even at this late date, and avoid any no-confidence motion altogether. With the rhetoric heating up, that appears much less likely than it did in the spring, when Martin successfully made the deal that kept his grip on power from slipping away. Right now, all he gains from a refusal to compromise is two months, at best, as Prime Minister. The master politician has lost perspective on the long game, it would appear, and has so focused on tactical manuevering that he has forgotten all about long-term strategy for the Liberals.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 22, 2005 6:46 AM

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