Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On poor excuses

We'll have to wait and see if the Libs even try to defend yesterday's utter failure on their own opposition motion. But they've offered an excuse for their vote to keep funding pro-asbestos propaganda - and predictably it's not one that makes an ounce of sense given the Libs' position on the Cons' budget generally:
(NDP MP Pat) Martin moved a motion at the Natural Resources committee of the House of Commons to eliminate the $250,000 in yearly funding Canada gives to the Chrysotile Institute, a Quebec-based advocacy group for the asbestos industry in Canada.

However, none of the other parties supported his motion and it was defeated. Martin was livid and heckled the Liberals as they voted no.

"How do you stand up with no spine?" he barked at Geoff Regan, the Liberal natural resources critic.
After waffling, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff came out last year in favour of banning exports of asbestos from Canada, a position (Lib MP Geoff) Regan says the party still holds. However, he said amending the estimates as Martin wanted would have been a confidence matter that could have triggered an election.

"I don't want any part of these electioneering games," Regan told the Winnipeg Free Press last week.
So what's the problem with that spin? Well, last anybody checked, the budget vote in the House of Commons was also "a confidence matter that could have triggered an election". And the Libs didn't vote with the government on the budget as a whole: instead, they cast as many "no" votes as they figured they could afford without risking bringing down the government, and otherwise instructed MPs not to vote one way or the other. Which meant that the budget passed with zero Lib votes in favour.

Had Regan and the other Libs followed the same strategy on the asbestos vote, they'd all have been able to vote "no" in keeping with their party's supposed position. After all, the Bloc has taken a consistent pro-asbestos stance - so no matter how many Libs voted against the motion, there was no danger of the vote serving to trigger an election. And even if they'd feared the Bloc might switch sides, the Libs could have safely abstained from the vote, secure in the knowledge that the Cons would carry the day.

But rather than following their normal election-avoidance strategy, the Libs on the Natural Resources committee chose to take a direct stand in favour of asbestos promotion - voting their approval for continued funding rather than merely holding back just enough opposition to avoid an election. Which would seem to signal that contrary to their claimed policy on the issue, the Libs are in fact more in favour of the asbestos funding than they are the Cons' budget as a whole.

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