Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A scary thought . . .

I don’t know why no one is raising these questions so I guess I will.

If the NDP and Conservatives vote against the Liberal budget on Feb. 23 the government will collapse and an election will be called. This scenario is technically possible but is it remotely realistic?

Look at the history books. Joe Clark’s minority government was brought down in 1979 when the Liberals and the NDP voted against Clark’s budget, forcing an immediate resignation. An election was called and the Liberals won easily.

Could Paul Martin’s minority government collapse in a couple of weeks? And if so, would Stephen Harper have a real shot at winning the election?

I’m no political expert so I don’t know the answers. That’s why I’m asking! But the conspiracy theorist in me wonders if Stephen Harper has been testing the waters with the same-sex marriage issue to see what kind of public support his party has. Could he convince his caucus to vote against the budget to force an election? Would the NDP go along with it?

Or is this completely outside the realm of possibility?


Lala said...

I hope to g-d that it doesn't go that way, I'm concerned that the NDP are being short sighted if it does. I don't think they stand to gain anything with Harper. Or I'm totally naive...when you live in Ottawa you're either one or the other.

Sarah said...

I don't think it WILL happen, but it COULD happen. I don't live in Ottawa either. Don't really know what's going on on Parliament Hill. Don't know why in the world the NDP would vote against the budget. But I'd really like to hear from someone who knows something about this if it's at all likely to happen on Feb. 23 when the budget is released.


Anonymous said...

Hey Sarah,

Delacey here. Hope you are well. I'm going to see if I can put my new-found learning to work here and provide, if not an answer, then some additional context to your question. I've been suffering through a seminar class on Canadian politics (not my strong point, and the required reading of 3-5 books per week doesn't seem to be helping), so here's what I can pull together....

If the budget is voted down, it doesn't necessarily go to an election. First, the Governor-General actually has to be asked to dissolve the Parliament. She does, as the representative of the Crown, have the right to refuse if she thinks the Liberal Government still has a hope of managing a functional House of Commons. If she doesn't believe that, she can ask the party with the next highest number of seats if they think they can pull together enough support in the House to manage a Government. This doesn't need to be a party majority, but can take the form of a formal or informal coalition. It might be possible (I'm not sure of the details here) that the NDP would be asked if they thought they could govern with Liberal support (or maybe with Bloc Quebecois support). I guess she could also ask the Conservatives if they could govern/lead the House, but given that no one would want to cooperate with them, it seems unlikely that they could lead a functional Parliament.

The short of it is, she can circumvent the election process by inviting the other parties to make their case for their ability to lead the House and making a decision based on their arguments.

Sending it to another election is probably the last step Adrienne Clarkson would take. In fact, students and the prof in my class were speculating that the reason Martin extended Clarkson's appointment past the normal length of the term is precisely so that they would have an experienced GG in the position in case it came to difficult decisions like this.

But when you think these scenarios through - or at least, when I try - it seems to me that any way you slice it, the NDP are better off in the position they're in now than forcing a vote of no-confidence. They likely don't have enough support that Clarkson would invite them to form the alternate government, so it might in theory go straight to the Conservatives (though I don't think that's likely because none of the other parties are likely to form a coalition with them). Risky there. And if Clarkson did dissolve Parliament and call an election, either the Liberals would get in with more members and the NDP would therefore be in a position of less power; or the Conservatives would get in with more members and the NDP would be in a position of less power; or there would be another Liberal minority, and maybe more NDP and fewer Conservatives, but maybe, risky there, too. I think the NDP are in their strongest position as things stand; vote for the budget, keep their decent standing in the House to leverage better bills/policies for as long as possible.

But, all this with many grains of salt. This is all new to me. I don't understand the role of the Bloc Quebecois in all this (in fact, I just had to google to confirm that the Bloc was the federal party and the Parti Quebecois was the provincial party, and not the other way around). And I don't really understand the intricacies of elections/governors-general/ parliaments/parties, etc.

So anyhow, hope this is food for thought. I'd love to be proven wrong - it would be a great example of the worth of this degree!

Take care - D.

Bill D. said...

My understanding is the party that would most benefit from an early election is the Bloc Quebecois.

Despite the Gomery inquiry, Strippergate and the rest of it, the Tories aren't ascendant in the polls.

The two keys for them are Ontario and Quebec, and they are nowheresville in both place.

Although Stephen Harper has been banging the drum on SSM, an Ipsos-Reid poll conducted in late January found that 71 per cent of Canadians don't think an election should be called on the issue.

If one was, 41 per cent would vote Liberal and 29 per cent would vote Conservative.

I would suggest if the Liberals put out a budget that's popularly accepted and the opposition parties trigger an unwanted election by voting it down, they'll be the ones who get punished.

Until we see some significant movement in the polls (the Libs in the mid-40s or higher), there won't be an election.

Anonymous said...

Delacey...looks like you've been doing a lot of reading! Thanks...I didn't know a lot of those details.

Bill...I suspect you're right. No election. I can't really think how it would be in any party's interest.

-- Sarah

p.s. What the hell is with this new comment format? Why do people have to log in? They must have just launched this. I don't like it. I hope it doesn't prevent people from commenting.

I can't figure out what my login and password is, forcing me to post as Anonymous. I'm not Anonymous! This is my blog, dammit.