One morning last week, Pierre Poièvre invited reporters to watch him address a caucus. With cameras rolling, the Conservative leader vowed to “block” government policy until the Liberals agreed to his demands to scrap the federal carbon tax.
“You have ruined Christmas for Canadians. [so] Common sense tells us that the Conservatives will ruin your holidays,” he said, addressing the prime minister directly. “You can’t rest until your tax money is gone.”
The Conservatives forced a 136-vote vote on the government’s spending estimates. The series of votes kept the House in the chamber overnight Thursday and into Friday evening.
But when the House of Commons met again on Monday, it was the Liberals who appeared to be overjoyed.
No matter what difficulties the Conservatives impose on the government (in addition to forcing a 24-hour vote, they effectively wiped out Friday’s schedule), they give the government a series of votes on specific items. Ta.
On Monday, the Liberals gleefully listed everything the Conservatives explicitly voted against: funding for new affordable housing, support for those affected by Hurricane Fiona, Ukraine. These include military aid to the United States and maintenance costs for national historic sites. Plains of Abraham.
And during this time, the House of Commons has continued to operate more or less as usual. The government passed housing and competition legislation on Monday, and modernized the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement on Tuesday.
There may be more procedural games in the future. The Conservatives have proposed 173 amendments to the government bill, which could be debated on Thursday. But it is not clear how the Conservatives will be able to keep the House of Commons alive, if at all, well past the pre-agreed adjournment scheduled for Friday afternoon.
In other words, it appears that the prime minister’s vacation is secured.
But even as we move towards what is expected to be a tumultuous end to a year in Congress, one wonders whether the past few weeks may foreshadow a particularly tumultuous 2024. Of course.
Opposition power to obstruct
Obstruction and delay are legitimate tools in the opposition’s parliamentary toolbox, just as the government has ways to move things along more quickly. But both sides will need to make tactical decisions about when and how strongly to deploy these tools.
The standard for modern federal voting marathons was set in 2012, when opposition parties used dozens of amendments to force a vote on Stephen Harper’s Conservative government’s budget for hours. . But in that case, the interference was directly related to the problem. It was being thwarted – opposition members objected to the omnibus nature of the bill and decided to stage what amounted to a public protest.
In the case of the Conservative tactics last week, the connection was tenuous. The Conservatives insisted they were taking a stand against a carbon tax, but forced dozens of votes on one of the bills that would require the government to get parliamentary consent for spending.
And the Conservatives don’t seem to have thought through the clear implications of each vote. This explains why by Tuesday they were trying to argue that what they voted against was not what they voted against.
“Last week, we were proud to vote against further inflationary bureaucratic spending that does nothing for Canada’s working class,” Poilievre said.
The threat of obstruction and the voting marathon were not a total loss for the Conservatives. Poièvre’s team still found material for six tweets and several YouTube videos. That includes Mr. Poièvre delivering fast food to grateful members of Congress.
I survived the chairman’s near death.
While the Liberals were taunting the Conservatives over the vote, another major flashpoint from a week ago, the controversy over Speaker Greg Fergus, appeared to be subsiding.
The Conservative Party and Bloc Québécois continue to call for Fergus’ resignation, but a committee hearing on the speaker’s video message yielded no major new findings. And the NDP announced Tuesday that it would only seek disciplinary action against Fergus, likely in the form of a fine.
That probably means Fergus can enjoy Christmas at the Chancellor’s residence if he feels like it. But Fergus doesn’t go into the new year feeling completely secure about his job. It remains to be seen how well he will be able to preside over a House of Representatives that is divided over his appointment, and how willing some members are to challenge him.
At the very least, it could face a vote of confidence, invoked by conservative House of Commons leader Andrew Scheer, possibly as early as Thursday.
Of course, the security of the speaker’s job is not the only question mark facing this parliament. NDP health critic Don Davis and Health Minister Mark Holland seemed to think so, although there is still a small question of whether the Liberal government will be able to maintain the trust and supply agreement with the NDP. Compete during Monday Question Period Let’s see who can be more enthusiastic about the latest advances in dentistry.
“Congratulations to the political parties in this country who stood up for ideas and got things done,” Holland said.
Despite their mutual appreciation, Holland and Davis have yet to reach an agreement on a pharmacare bill. However, if a compromise is reached, the confidence and supply agreement could reach its second anniversary in March.
Whether the Conservatives renew their obstruction threats in January may depend on what they think they gained from the Prime Minister’s threat to ruin Christmas.
The Liberals might be happy to see them try again. In addition to focusing on the number of votes on the official record, liberals have been happy to compare conservative tactics to the obstructionism practiced by Republicans in the U.S. Congress.
That may not be a comparison the Conservatives want to encourage. But perhaps the Conservatives are happy with anything that keeps the words “carbon tax” in the news. And perhaps the fight could have been a useful rallying cry for Tory supporters.
One specific concern for the Conservatives, Bill S-234, which would further exempt farmers from carbon taxes, returned to the House of Commons on Wednesday after amendments in the Senate. The Liberals may be content to let this bill collect dust. If that happens, the Conservative Party may decide to resist.
And if it gets enough likes and retweets, there may be more voting marathons, even if this one doesn’t live up to the hype.