Stage set for a showdown ... or is
[PoliticsWatch Updated 7:00 p.m. May 5, 2005]
OTTAWA — Government House Leader Tony Valeri said Thursday an opposition non-confidence vote set for May 18 in the House of Commons is not in his opinion a vote of non-confidence in the government.
Earlier, Peter Milliken, the Speaker of the House, ruled that an amendment to a committee concurrence motion put forward by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was in order and was votable on the floor of the House of Commons.
That amendment asks to send the motion back to the finance committee and request the
Liberal minority government resign.
Concurrence motions are non-binding, but nonetheless, if it passes in the House, MPs would be
declaring non-confidence in the government.
But Valeri did not see it that way.
"This is an instruction to a committee," Valeri said. "This is not a confidence motion at all."
But the House leaders for the Bloc Quebecois and the Conservatives, the two parties that have both said the Liberal government has lost the moral authority to govern due to allegations of kickbacks to Liberal party organizers being revealed at the Gomery inquiry in Montreal, saw it differently.
"It means that there's going to be a confidence vote at the latest in this Parliament on May 18," said Conservative House leader Jay Hill.
"We believe that confidence will be decided by the House of Commons. And if a motion passes with the majority of the members in the House of Commons in support of it that clearly says the government should resign, how can they debate that's not confidence?"
The Liberal government appears headed to what could become an unprecedented constitutional crisis if the motion passes in the House and Martin refuses to resign.
While Hill would not speculate on Harper approaching the Governor General if such a scenario happens,
CBC News reported late Thursday afternoon that Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said he would.
Duceppe's House leader, Michel Gauthier, expressed astonishment at Valeri's position on the vote.
"It's incredible," he said. "I can't understand why Mr. Valeri is saying it's not a confidence vote because we ask the committee to ask the government to resign. It can't be more clear than this resolution."
Meanwhile, the procedural tug of war continued on the floor of the House of Commons on Thursday.
In the morning, the Conservatives failed in an effort to amend a
public accounts committee motion on the floor of the House to include a non-confidence measure.
In the afternoon, the Conservatives attempted to include a non-confidence measure on a bill on the floor of the House that was amended in the Senate.
The Speaker is considering whether the amendment is in order.
And the government announced it has plans to put a confidence measure on the floor of the House.
On Friday, the government will introduce companion legislation to the budget implementation bill that will take into account the $4.6 billion in new spending that was part of the
budget deal with the NDP.
In exchange for the new spending, the NDP has agreed to prop up the Liberals in confidence votes until the budget implementation bill receives Royal Assent in the senate, which may take months.
Second reading on that bill will begin next week, but the opposition believes the Liberals will slow down the bill in debate stalling a vote for weeks.
And Prime Minister Paul Martin continued his efforts to woo the two independent MPs who hold the balance of power.
The Ottawa Citizen reported Thursday that Martin is directing an initiative to send 100 military advisors and $70 million in new aid to Sudan's troubled Darfur region.
That measure is being viewed as an effort to win support from former Liberal MP David Kilgour, who left the Liberals to sit as an independent just a few weeks
ago. Kilgour has said he was interested in the government doing more Darfur.
Martin said he met with Kilgour earlier this week to quiz him on his recent trip to Africa.
"Mr. Kilgour has experience with Africa, and I wanted to hear him also," the PM said.
Martin also said the issue of Darfur was important to his government, noting his speech at the United Nations on the subject and his trip Sudan last year.
Conservative foreign affairs critic Stockwell Day said while he's glad to see some help
possibly coming to the region, he's not pleased with Martin's approach.
"I'm not okay with the superficial manner in which he's doing it," he said.
"He won't give the support we've been asking for until he feels a political threat personally. That is shameful in and of itself. But I'm pleased that we are finally seeing some support winding up in the Sudan and Darfur."
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