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November 23, 2005
The Axe, Poised

While the Liberal government spent the day trying to pass as much legislation as possible while it still holds the reins, the three Canadian opposition parties unveiled the no-confidence motion that will dethrone Paul Martin and the Grits. The motion, which appears certain to pass tomorrow, will take down a minority government on a pure no-confidence motion for the first time in over a century:

The minority Liberal government will be slapped with a rare and ignominious distinction Thursday when its opponents table a non-confidence motion that will all but certainly trigger an election campaign within days.

The Liberals would be the first minority government in at least a century to collapse on a stand-alone motion of censure, said a leading constitutional expert.

The Opposition Conservatives had prepared a long, stinging condemnation that alluded to corruption, scandal and gross abuse of public funds.

But various sources said opposition parties have agreed to put forward a much more sparsely worded motion Thursday.

"We will support a very, very simple motion that simply indicates that the House no longer has confidence in the government," said NDP Leader Jack Layton.

The decision to go sparse on the actual language of the motion points to fundamentally different approaches for the three parties on fighting the election. The three opposition groups will compete against each other as well as the Liberals for new voters and better leverage in the next Commons, after all, and each will give their reasons for demanding new elections. The Tories will undoubtedly press the Sponsorship Programme and the graft and corruption that followed, and the other two parties will also make reference to it as well, but the NDP will have a difficult time making it the centerpiece of an election campaign. After all, Layton had his chance to kick the struts out from underneath Martin this spring, but let him off the hook after landing a $5 billion spending bill he especially wanted.

Needless to say, a no-confidence motion on Adscam six months after the NDP rescued the Liberals from the very same scandal would cause more than a few titters among the electorate.

The Tories and BQ will have no such problems. Expect Harper and Duceppe to run on a clean-government program, and offer their own versions of executive reform to back that rhetoric with policy. Harper may have to run against the supposed "hidden agenda" that the Liberals like to throw at the Conservative leader, but with Adscam exploding all over the Liberals, bringing up anything "hidden" might not make for very good electoral strategy on this pass.

Instead, the Liberals have already begun their electoral campaign this afternoon, tabling a flurry of motions that promise all sorts of progress -- but which will fall victim to the next elections, including an inquiry into a twenty-year-old terrorist act, the Air India massacre, which the Martin government had avoided addressing at all until a sudden reversal today. They will argue that the collapse of the Martin executive will eliminate the chance for all of that legislation to come to fruition, and at least in some instances, they may well be correct.

Tomorrow, while we're eating our fill of turkey, the Martin executive may finally eat the crow that has awaited them for the eight months since Justice John Gomery started his inquiry.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 23, 2005 6:32 PM

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