In response to a query from ITQ/DMA, a spokeperson for the Bloc Quebecois said that consent was denied by “Conservatives”, although he wouldn’t say (or perhaps genuinely didn’t know) exactly which one(s) were opposed to the motion, which – for anyone who missed yesterday’s post – would have recognized the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On The Origin of Species.
But last night, ITQ was chatting with a Tory staffer who shall remain nameless who pointed out that caucus members are instructed to deny consent to any motion for unanimous consent put forward by an opposition MP, regardless of the content, unless the fact that there is all party agreement is stated up front.
That may sound needlessly cautious, but it’s actually quite sensible: back when they were in opposition, the Canadian Alliance (or possibly Reform – I’m going from memory here) once managed to hamstring the then-Liberal government with a motion that suspended the use of time allocation for the rest of the session. How? With a stockpile of similarly mischievous motions close at hand, they kept a watchful eye on the government side of the House, waiting for a moment when there were no Liberals on the floor to object. (Former Reform staffer Russ Kuykendall recalls the tactic here.)
Not surprisingly, this didn’t go over well at all with then Government House Leader Don Boudria, who was forced to bargain with the opposition in order to gain the necessary House agreement to pass a subsequent motion restoring his power to limit debate. Oh, memories.
If I remember right, the Alliance – or Reform or whatever they were back then – turned out to be terribly naive parliamentary-hostage-takers; they ended up giving the closure stick back to Boudria in exchange for, like, a take note debate on drunk driving. I think they were too shocked at the fact that their trick had actually worked to come up with a decent list of demands.
Anyway, the upshot is that Darwin Day celebrants needn’t feel unduly targeted for petty consent-denying by the government — it could have been a motion to recognize that puppies are adorable and it still wouldn’t have made it through. Also, that ITQ has far too many tales of parliamentary shenanigans floating around in her head.