Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Why Stephen Harper should be worried today

As anticipated, last night's House of Commons vote passed a motion calling on the government to resign. Stating that this is was not procedurally a vote of non-confidence (and technically, they seem to be correct in that), the Liberals have refused to step down.

The real story here, though, isn't in the overall outcome of the motion, but in the details of a few individual MPs' votes. As I've mentioned before, the math of this matter is such that the fate of this government will ultimately rest in the hands of a few Independents. And it seems that both of the Independents who were present (David Kilgour and Carolyn Parrish) voted to keep the government in power. The only reason this particular motion was able to pass was because of the absence two Liberal MPs and of Independent Chuck Cadman (who was in the middle of a chemotherapy treatment at the time of the vote, but who has previously stated he would likely vote with the government). If all three of them had been there to vote with the government, then the motion would have been a tie, which would be broken by the Speaker, who is a Liberal:

Two Liberal cabinet ministers, Irwin Cotler and John Efford, missed the vote, as did Independent MP Chuck Cadman, who is recovering from chemotherapy. Mr. Cotler was in Montreal at the funeral of a close relative, and Mr. Efford was having medical treatment in Newfoundland.

Mr. Cadman said he has yet to decide how he would vote on a no-confidence motion and said he would need a few days notice if he were to attend a vote in the future.

Had all three been in the House and voted with the Liberals, the Speaker likely would have broken the tie by siding with the government. Last night's numbers suggest the Tories can't be assured of future wins on no-confidence motions.

The Tories flew in two MPs who have cancer, Dave Chatters and Darrel Stinson, who got standing ovations from all parties when they rose in the House for an earlier vote.

Independent MP David Kilgour voted with the Liberals, but said he will do so on a future no-confidence vote only if the government takes strong action in Sudan.

So what this motion really does is remove some of the mystery surrounding the way Independents like Parrish and Kilgour would likely vote on an official no-confidence matter, and the results suggest that if the Liberals can get everybody to Ottawa on the day it happens, we may not be seeing a spring election after all. Politically the Liberals look pretty bad today, but unless Harper can get Cadman on his side, this vote was anything but good news for the forces who are calling for Paul Martin's head on a platter.

No comments: