Tories, Bloc shutdown Parliament
[PoliticsWatch Updated 3:00 p.m. May 12, 2005]
OTTAWA — Activity on Parliament Hill came to a halt on Thursday morning after the Bloc Quebecois and the Conservatives voted 152 to 144 to adjourn proceedings for the day.
It was the second day in a row that the two largest opposition parties flexed their muscle to shut down the House as a way to illustrate they, not the government, are in control.
The two parties are doing this to strong arm the government to bring a vote of confidence in the House as soon as possible.
On Tuesday night, the two parties defeated the government on a motion calling on the government to resign. The government ignored that vote, calling it a procedural matter.
But Wednesday morning, after an emergency cabinet meeting, Prime
Minister Paul Martin said he would table a budget bill next Thursday that would be a matter of confidence. Its defeat would trigger an election.
After Thursday's vote, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper used his strongest language to date.
"What's clear is the government's lost the democratic mandate of the House of Commons and they don't seem willing to face that."
Although he said approaching the Governor General is not an option he is considering at the moment, he hinted that she may have to get involved.
"I think the Governor General herself will have to watch what's occurring here," he said. "I think she should be concerned that she has a government that does not have a mandate from the House of Commons."
The prime minister and Government House Leader Tony Valeri both denied that Parliament was in a state of paralysis.
They chose to chastise the two opposition parties for cutting out of work early.
"I believe that Canadians are expecting us to do a full day's work between now and next Thursday," the PM said.
The prime minister said he set the date for the confidence next Thursday as not to
interfere with the B.C. election and the Queen's arrival in Canada earlier in the
week. But after three different votes this week, it is clear that Martin does not have the votes to win at the present moment.
While it is not certain he will have the votes next Thursday, it is also not guaranteed that Harper and Duceppe can win either.
Independent MP Chuck Cadman, who was not in Ottawa this week because he was undergoing cancer therapy, will be in town next week. If all Bloc and Conservatives show up, then Martin will need his vote.
But Cadman, a former Conservative MP, remains a wild card and still has not decided which way he will vote.
And one Conservative vote could be in trouble.
MP Darrell Stinson, who has cancer, is scheduled to undergo surgery on Wednesday, a day before the vote, making his attendance impossible if he goes ahead with the procedure.
On Wednesday, Harper, Stinson and another Conservative MP who has cancer, Dave Chatters, all suggested Martin was pushing the vote back as long as possible in hopes they would not be able to make it.
The prime minister, other Liberals and the NDP jumped over those comments suggesting Harper had reached a new low in politics.
Harper repeated that allegation on Thursday, undeterred by the Liberal attacks.
"I'll just say what I said yesterday. We have members of Parliament who have made a great deal of effort to come here to be present on behalf of their constituents at great personal cost to be able to vote.
"The government should have the decency to allow them to have the right to vote on the budget if that's what the government really wants. I think it's disgraceful what Mr. Martin and
(NDP Leader Jack) Layton are doing here."
However, all of Martin's votes are not secure either.
Independent MP David Kilgour, who voted with the Liberals on Tuesday night, said his vote next time is not guaranteed.
Kilgour, who had been pressing the prime minister to do more to get Canada involved in the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan, seemed not impressed with the prime minister's announcement Thursday of $170 million and up to 100 Canadian troops to operate in a strategic support role for African Union forces in the region.
Kilgour said he was hoping for something more "substantial" to address what he says is a genocide that has to be stopped.
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