Skip navigation

Commons sense will prevail, leaders say'We've got to take some steps to avoid the kind of cliffhanger game of chicken...'

'We've got to take some steps to avoid the kind of cliffhanger game of chicken...'

With reports from Jane Taber, Gloria Galloway and Drew Fagan


e Minister Paul Martin and the three opposition leaders further reduced the temperature on Parliament Hill yesterday by declining to move new amendments like the one that almost sank the government Thursday night.

Sources said yesterday that Mr. Martin phoned Conservative Stephen Harper, Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécoic and Jack Layton of the New Democratic Party, and there was general agreement among the leaders that the kind of razor's edge politics of the previous day is to be avoided.

Federal officials suggested that, barring unexpected issues, the first confidence vote in the House of Commons after likely approval of the Speech from the Throne won't come until December -- when a vote is traditionally held to approve standard government expenditures.

Liberal House Leader Tony Valeri and senior Conservative officials said yesterday they were hopeful that a Tory amendment to the government motion to accept the Speech from the Throne would pass muster without the brinkmanship that on Thursday could have led to the defeat of the minority government and a general election.

Although few senior officials of any party believed an election was imminent, the parliamentary collapse was avoided only after Mr. Martin, Mr. Harper and Mr. Duceppe forged a last-minute compromise on the wording of a Bloc subamendment to the speech on addressing the so-called the fiscal imbalance.

Yesterday, Mr. Valeri said the vote on the Tory amendment -- to be held later this month -- will be considered one of confidence.

However, he promised that the drama of Thursday will not be repeated.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting in Ottawa, Mr. Valeri emphasized co-operation in this minority Parliament and the fact that he believes the government can work.

About the near-debacle on Thursday, he said the government had little time to analyze the Bloc amendment and negotiate with the opposition.

Mr. Valeri said the vote on the Tory amendment will be different as the government will have a number of days for discussions.

He also said the government plans to introduce more than 40 bills between now and when the House breaks in early December.

The government started by introducing 11 bills yesterday, including proposed legislation to protect whistleblowers, fight child pornography and create a learning bond to assist with education costs.

Senior Conservatives said yesterday that they felt their amendment would pass, given the fact that the government acceded to the Bloc's reworked subamendment. The Tories also believe there will be fewer issues of confidence over the next few months given what took place over the past week. One senior Tory said the next such vote would probably take place when the government unveils its budget next February.

The Conservatives also believe they won points Thursday by setting a precedent for the future.

Mr. Layton said he met with Mr. Martin yesterday morning to discuss ways of preventing similar close calls.

"We've got to take some steps now to avoid the kind of cliffhanger game of chicken that we saw just yesterday," said Mr. Layton, adding that he offered Mr. Martin "both some procedural suggestions and some content ideas and the response certainly was not negative."

Parliament must learn from what transpired "in the dying hours of the so-called crisis" when reason took over from responsibility, the NDP Leader said.

The parties must negotiate now to ensure that a repeat crisis is not created over the Tory amendment, Mr. Layton said. That could be achieved by simply declaring that it is not a matter of confidence, he said.

Recommend this article? 0 votes

Back to top