Spoiler warning: The government will survive, thanks to grudging support from the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP, but ITQ will still be there, perched in the gallery to witness this not-so-historic moment, so check back at 10:15 for all the off-camera action.
And be nice to the NDP, y’all. After smugly voting nay on 79 previous occasions, this can’t be easy for them.
Greetings, fans of rise-and-shine democracy!
A brief programming note: The vote itself isn’t actually scheduled to happen for another half hour or so, but the powers that be at OLO — bless their obliging media-hungry hearts — have seen fit to send Ujjal Dosanjh and David McGuinty out to the Foyer to provide a little preemptive spin. Which is why ITQ is currently pacing the marble hall outside the Chamber, alo
And here’s David McGuinty! Who says that the Liberals will go into the House of Commons this morning and “do their job,” and demonstrate that they simply don’t have confidence in this government. Gosh, it’s disorienting, this whole behaving like a proper official opposition.
Asked whether the Liberals plan to rub the NDP’s collective and respective noses in this fall from sanctimonious smugdom, McGuinty is — surprisingly gracious, actually. The NDP, he notes, will do as it sees fit; his party has taken a “principled position”, and that’s what they’ll be following. Not surprisingly, he gets pressed on the issue, but manages to stick to his line in both English and French.
And here’s Dosanjh, who is apparently here to scrum on — vaccine availability, as it turns out. Where are Canada’s vaccines? How much did this government cut from pandemic funding — he recalls that, during his tenure as minister, they were on the verge of signing a contract that would ensure an adequate supply, so what happened?
After a quick back and forth over the minister’s response to his leader’s demand that she apologize for the body bag incident, Dosanjh heads into the House. Wow, that was — succinct.
And there go the bells! Just the first chimes. I’ll meet you back here in a few minutes. Cross your fingers that I manage to stake out a good seat in the gallery.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned his before, but can I just repeat, for the record, that I absolutely *love* being in the House of Commons for a vote? All the MPs scurrying back and forth from the lobbies, milling in the middle aisle, chatting and backslapping and occasionally throwing a fleeting glance at the press gallery above to see if anyone is watching. They’re such antisolipsistic creatures, our parliamentarians; if no one is paying attention to them, they fear they may no longer exist.
Galleries filling up nicely — well, for a Friday, at least — a half dozen journalists, give or take a late arrival, and a strong turnout in the Liberal staffer section. Meanwhile, the government section — which usually boasts at least a duty flack from PMO — section is curiously empty.
Let the desk banging begin!
And here we go! The Whips are marching down the aisle, accompanied by a hearty round of applause from the Liberals; not to be outdone in enthusiasm, someone on the other side of the House — either government or NDP, I couldn’t tell which — yells “Let’s go!” At least it wasn’t “Let’s roll”.
In response to the traditional question — yeas pour? — the Conservative caucus begins the slow motion wave; the PM is here, but seems entirely preoccupied by a briefing note. He doesn’t look particularly relieved at holding onto power for another day, really, but he’s downright gleeful compared to Jack Layton, whose glum demeanour is unmistakeable even from way down here at the other end of the chamber as he votes in favour of the bill.
All those opposed? Why, thanks for asking! The Liberals are practically falling over each other to vote against the government on a matter of confidence for the first time in — decades, actually. Wow, maybe this *is* historic-ish after all.
And that’s it — the government survives, with just 74 voting nay, but looking pretty darned delighted to be doing so. Who were those absent three Liberals, though — and how long before we get a flood of anonymously sourced reports of internal caucus turmoil? Let’s start a pool!
Okay, Ignatieff is supposed to scrum at 10:45, so I’ll meet you back here in a few.
Or I’ll meet you back here *right now*, as we join a Jack Layton scrum already in progress. He seems — sombre, but as though he thinks the worst is over. After all, once you’ve folded once, it just keeps getting easier, right? Actually, that didn’t seem to be the case with the Liberals, who seemed more doleful with every hand-sitting vote, but maybe it will be different for the NDP.
“What was it like voting for Harper,” Julie Van Dusen demands. Turns out not so bad, if you lie back and think of home renovations, or so Layton is gallantly attempting to explain. “We were focusing on what people want,” he says — and that isn’t an election.
Jack really seems to think that he can get amendments to the EI bill. He’s also trying to pretend that he doesn’t really believe the Liberals will introduce a confidence motion — “it’s so hypothetical, based on our experience with that party” — which makes me think that he doesn’t yet have a backup plan if the bill *doesn’t* get bogged down in committee.
Okay, that seems to be it for this scrum, but Ignatieff will be here within minutes, we’re told. Such an unexpectedly frantic Friday.
And there he is, as promised, and looking like there are more than a few empty canary cages littering the Opposition lobby. After confirming that it felt somewhat satisfying to vote against this government since 2007 — I think it’s been longer, at least as far as confidence questions, but that’s something worth checking — he goes on to remind us that he spent the summer talking to Canadians anxious about their future, and that really, this is his job.
It’s true, really. Her Majesty *does* need a Loyal Opposition; we’ve just gotten so used to the surreality of not having one that it’s taking some getting used to.
Asked whether he thinks the Conservatives will accuse him of holding up the home reno tax credit, Ignatieff wrinkles his nose, and avers that we should “stop these games” – using tax credits as legislative hostages and that sort of antic. Nobody cares about any of this outside of the “bubble,” he says. Also, it “feels good” to stand up for those Canadians who, like the Liberals, have lost confidence in this government.
Oh, and asked to clarify his apparent conflict with Dalton McGuinty over the HST: “I’m the leader of the opposition; I have no position to clarify.”
Huh. I’ve got to think that there were more than a few furious phone calls between Ottawa and Queen’s Park that would suggest otherwise.
Oh, for heaven’s sakes, now Jim Flaherty is scrumming. Stability is important, as is staying the course, and carrying on, and any number of other vague platitudes to that effect. One reporter asks him what it feels like to be “propped up by socialists and separatists,” and he smiles before noting that he’s been asked the same thing about being a fiscal conservative running a deficit.
He’s also quizzed about EI, and whether there may be more money available; “the view the opposition parties have that there can always be more” is, in his view, not overly helpful.
Oh, and those amendments that Layton and the Bloc want to see? Doesn’t sound like he’s planning a major rewrite of the bill. “The opposition parties should work with the government,” he suggests.
No amendments? “No, we don’t plan to amend.”
In other words, this legislation? Not a fixer-upper, Jack.
Hey, look! Things got interesting again! I love it when that happens. Anyway, since the scrums seem to be over for the moment, I’m going to sign off for a bit and, you know, try to make sense of it all. Check back later today for the resulting musings!
Looking for more?
Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.