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Stinson sent home; Harper concedes battle for early vote 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:45 p.m. May 13, 2005]

OTTAWA  — The Conservatives have given up their battle to have an early confidence vote in the House of Commons and have sent home one of their ailing MPs who was on standby in Ottawa.   

After shutting down the House of Commons for a third-consecutive day, Harper announced a change in strategy after failing to get the government to put forward a vote on a budget bill on Monday. 

Prime Minister Paul Martin had promised to put forward a confidence vote for next Thursday after the Bloc and Conservatives passed a motion in the House on Tuesday recommending the government resign. 

Martin had considered the Tuesday vote a procedural matter, but shortly after realized that he had to put forward a confidence motion in very short order. 

The Conservatives and the Bloc wanted a confidence motion put forward as soon as possible, mainly because one of their MPs, Darrel Stinson, was scheduled to undergo surgery related to cancer on Wednesday. 

That fact had created an acrimonious atmosphere on the Hill this week after Harper accused Liberal strategists of timing the vote for Thursday to ensure Stinson could not be present in what is expected to be a very close vote. 

But on Friday, Harper gave up his battle. 

"This morning I spoke to Darrel Stinson and I told Darrel that if we couldn't force the issue today, if we couldn't get a vote on Monday, I was asking him not to return at all next week for the sake of his health," Harper said. 

Stinson was not in the House in the afternoon for the adjournment vote, presumably he had returned to his B.C. riding. 

Harper said he doesn't expect to see Stinson back "for some time."

Harper continued his attack on the government for the timing of the vote, calling their tactics shameful, disgusting and disgraceful.

But Harper said if the Liberals put forward a motion to have a budget vote on Thursday, his three-day takeover of the House would come to a halt. 

"Assuming we do get that, we do get a guaranteed vote next week, we will not further continue obstruction."

Conservative sources say it safe to assume this means that committees, which the Bloc and the Conservatives withdrew from this week, will be operational again. 

The temperature also cooled down on Friday after the NDP said it was considering entering into a pairing agreement with the other parties to ensure no one who is ailing has to stick around and vote. 

NDP MP Ed Broadbent has offered not to vote on the budget to offset the Conservatives' loss of Stinson. 

"There shouldn't be a punishment as it were by changing the voting result in the House," NDP Leader Jack Layton said Friday about MPs who need to be with their family or undergo medical treatment. 

Harper called the move "generous and honourable."

"If Mr. Broadbent has indicated he'll do that, we'll certainly take him up on that," he said. 

Such a "pairing" has the support of Government House Leader Tony Valeri, who said he supports it if can help in "improving the decorum of the House." 

Despite sounding conciliatory toward the NDP, Harper remained angry and frustrated with the Liberals on Friday over the timing of the vote. 

He admitted that he and some of his MPs had been caught up in the high-stakes battle with Martin and the Liberals throughout the wild week on Parliament Hill. 

"There do have to be limits about how far we go," he said, noting a saying his father told him when he was a child: "Be careful when you fight a monster lest you yourself become a monster."

"We have people who are prepared to hold votes so that sick people can't attend. Who are prepared all of a sudden when they weren't prepared before to send troops into war zones to get people to vote on their side," he said.

"We have to fight hard, but there are limits. We cannot stoop to the level of these people and I just hope the public sees that."

With the loss of Stinson's vote expected to be cancelled out, the situation will remain the same in the House next week. 

The Liberals will need the support of the two undecided Independent MPs - Chuck Cadman and David Kilgour -- in order to ensure a tie to be broken by the Liberal speaker.

Kilgour appears to be leaning towards voting against the government after he dismissed the prime minister's recent announcement on military and financial aid for Darfur as just a token. 

Cadman remains a mystery, with his only guiding principle appearing to be the views of his constituents which he says are running nearly 50-50. 

Valeri said he has not been in direct contact with Cadman, but "We're going to do everything possible to win that vote on Thursday."

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