Tories deny they're losing control
[PoliticsWatch updated 5:30 p.m. October 25, 2006]
The government House leader is denying the minority Conservative
government is losing its control of the House of
Speaking to reporters after Wednesday's Tory caucus meeting,
Government House Leader Rob Nicholson said despite recent
setbacks the government is still "moving ahead" with its
On Tuesday, the government suffered two blows from opposition
parties who may be emboldened by at least one recent poll showing
the government losing support.
A Senate committee examining the Federal Accountability Act
announced it planned to make a number of amendments to the landmark
bill, including one increasing campaign donations to $2,000 from
In the House, opposition MPs on the Commons justice committee made
substantial amendments to a government bill that aimed at reducing
the number of inmates who are eligible for house arrest.
In a minority Parliament, the government is outnumbered by
opposition parties on committees.
The two bills touched on two of the Conservative government's five
priorities -- ethics and getting tough on crime.
The Conservatives have also suffered other defeats in
On Tuesday, the opposition MPs on the Commons natural resources
committee passed a motion calling on the government to reinstate two
programs it cancelled earlier this year, including the EnerGuide
program. And last week the opposition MPs on the fisheries committee
passed a motion to eliminate marine fees for Canada's North.
In addition, the environment and aboriginal affairs committees plan
to hold up government business to deal with private members' bills
on Kyoto and the Kelowna Accord respectively.
"I'm very disappointed," Nicholson told reporters. "We had all the other parties during the election saying they want to be tough on crime and then they gut the bill on
Nicholson said he was optimistic that the government would move
ahead with its agenda, but then issued a warning to the opposition
parties: "If they want to put their money where their mouth is then it's up to them
to defeat us," he said.
The House is currently debating a budget implementation bill which
is a confidence matter and its defeat would prompted an
Prime Minister Stephen Harper later echoed Nicholson's threat
on his way out of question period, telling reporters if the opposition won't pass
the crime bills, "they'll have to answer to the Canadian
But senior opposition MPs said they are not obstructing the
government's agenda, but simply fulfilling their roles in a minority
When asked if the Conservatives are governing like they have a
majority government, Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale said
the government was governing "in a manner that says to other members of Parliament who aren't in the government caucus, 'You can just go to hell.'
"Well that's not the way a Parliament functions -- period. And it's certainly not the way a minority Parliament
functions," Goodale said after question period.
NDP Leader Jack Layton said the prime minister has been
breaking his election night promise to cooperate with the opposition
"We've seen none of that," Layton said in response to
questions from PoliticsWatch after question period. "We've seen a very arrogant attitude and by trying to be too controlling it seems like he's losing control of the House."
"There's such an arrogant and controlling attitude coming from the prime minister towards the House, the media, community groups and so on, I think this is why you're seeing a form of paralysis setting in here. He just has a rather
contemptuous attitude towards the democratic process."
The prime minister also continues to come under criticism for his
controlling nature on his caucus and now public servants, the
On Monday, three public servants who were supposed to testify this
week about the federal government's recent $1 billion spending cuts
suddenly informed the committee they could not appear.
Liberal MP Omar Alghabra, who is a member of the
said the incident involving the public servants shows the clear
pattern of control by the government.
"There's a significant amount of evidence that's clear to all
of us that there's severe control on message, on discussion, on
debate to avoid any kind of challenge to the policy of the PMO,"
he told PoliticsWatch.
Alghabra said it is naive to assume that a PMO does not get involved
in committee and caucus practices, but he said the level coming from
the current government is "unprecedented."
"It's wrong because the PMO should be able to debate the issue
and allow for a debate to take place on policy. If his office is so
confident of the policies they want to implement, let the debate
take place on merit and then defend the policy."
Alghabra said Harper is risking having his legacy becoming that of
divisiveness and failure to build consensus in Parliament.
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