The games begin

Moments ago, after a recorded vote was compelled on a motion that “a member now be heard,” the NDP’s Yvon Godin stood in the House and spoke at length in regards to a committee report on “the snow crab industry in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.” Then Mr. Godin moved a motion to adjourn the House for the day. And now MPs are being called in for another recorded vote.

The Liberals have sent out a missive saying none of this will delay the actual second reading vote on the budget bill. (I’m trying to sort that question out.)

Meanwhile, there seems to be some dispute as to which MPs will be allowed to attend the finance committee meetings on the bill. Presuming the bill gets there at some point.

Update 4:54pm. Nathan Cullen spoke with reporters outside the House just before the first vote. He might have provided one clue to what’s going on here.

The way the procedure’s worked in the House is they’ve allocated days, not a date. The government can claim that the vote must come on Monday but that’s not the way that the instructions to Parliament work.

This might match one theory I’ve seen floated: that if the NDP can prevent today’s scheduled budget debate, they will push back the vote on the bill (by a day).

Update 4:59pm. More from Mr. Cullen’s scrum, this in regards to the dispute concerning the finance committee.

We also have an indication from government, as you’ll well remember, there was a promise made to allow associate members to sit on the Finance Committees, other experts that we have. For the first time we believe in parliamentary history, now the government is denying us that ability. So a promise that was made by the government to allow at least some measure of scrutiny over their budget bill has now been ripped up, we think for the first time in Canada’s history.  It’s inexcusable, anti-democratic and they had this motion from us two days ago. 

Update 5:07pm. With the Conservatives and Liberals voting against, the motion to adjourn has been defeated. The snow crab debate has resumed.

Update 5:12pm. The government moves that the debate be adjourned. A recorded vote has now been called for. It will be 30 minutes before that occurs, at which point it will be past 5:30pm, the time the House is scheduled to move on to other business. If the aforementioned theory is correct, the vote on C-38 will, as a result, have been pushed back a day.

Update 5:18pm. While we await the vote on the government motion, here is more of Mr. Cullen’s explanation for what is happening here.

It may sound strange but from opposition to government is a form of partnership. You try to have some conversations. You can agree on the actual substance but the form in which this government brought in they knew were wrong from the beginning. And it’s not me saying that. It’s every parliamentary expert that’s looked at the history of this country. It’s commentators from right across this country saying, while technically legal, it’s absolutely unethical for this government to do it. So let’s focus on how Parliament ought to work. Let’s focus on a government that if it had the courage of their convictions for each of these measures, be it unemployment insurance or be it on the environment they would introduce them as separate pieces of legislation. That was the reasonable offer that we gave to the government. They decided not to take that offer. That’s unfortunate. We now move on to secondary tactics and that’s also unfortunate…

Well, we have a series of options available to us.  We’re looking at each one. It’s limited power. We don’t make any pretence that it can go for months and years. That’s absolutely not true and we don’t pretend it to be true. But we’re trying to put a little water in the wine of the government and say you may have some technical powers here but there are still rights and privileges for MPs and the people we represent and the people we represent want to see a fair hearing of this bill and want the worst parts taken out. That’s our job. That should also be the job of the government. They’re not doing their job so we’re going to push back a little.

Update 5:46pm. The House has now moved on to the previously scheduled votes. Meanwhile, a comment from the government whip’s office in regards to the dispute over which MPs can participate in the finance committee hearings.

The NDP are free to substitute any member they want to have participate on the Finance committee or any subcommittee of the Finance committee.

Update 6:13pm. The government side still seems to think a vote on the budget is happening, as scheduled, on Monday night. But by having the debate start again tomorrow, instead of on Wednesday’s abbreviated schedule, there will be more time for debate.

Update 6:44pm. Peter Van Loan just rose on a point of order to say that the opposition day that had been scheduled for tomorrow has been rescheduled. That presumably clears the way for the House to debate the budget bill tomorrow.

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