Thursday, July 08, 2010

On distant threats

Before anybody panics too much about the Cons' latest election threat, it's worth keeping in mind the process that their dumpster budget would have to go through before that possibility could materialize.

As noted in Gloria Galloway's coverage of the Senate Finance Committee's fully-justified decision to carve out some of the more gratuitously non-budgetary parts of the bill, the Cons have thus far managed to get their way in the full Senate - meaning that they can simply vote down the committee's amendments and pass the bill in full, dog's breakfast and all:
(T)he bill will go back to the Senate as a whole for final reading with those portions removed.

The Conservatives could, at that point, vote to have them re-installed. The Liberals and the independents combined hold the barest of majorities in the Red Chamber but they have not been able to get enough bodies in the seats to stop the Conservatives from pushing the bill through.
Moreover, even if the third-reading vote becomes the first one where the Senate opposition is able to use its majority, it's worth questioning whether the Cons's spin as to what would come next makes any particular sense. If the Senate does return the bill with the committee's deletions, then the House of Commons would effectively have two choices: it could either pass the bill as amended by the Senate, or junk the bill up again and send it back to the Senate.

But I'd argue that the Cons' case to push the latter would be more difficult than what they've faced so far with the dumpster bill. In effect, having pushed the bill forward by trumpeting the importance of its budgetary measures, they'd then have to hold hostage every economic initiative they claim to care about in order to add the extra provisions back in. Which means that they'd be relatively likely to simply pass the amended bill if the Libs were to hold up long enough to press the point.

Again, I don't actually expect that to happen: most likely either the Cons will strike a deal with the Libs in the Senate to let through a private member's bill or two in exchange for getting the budget passed, or the Libs will blink on a third-reading showdown. But even if the Senate follows through with the amended bill, we'd still be a long way from any election other than one of the Cons' choice. And if Harper is determined to go to the polls, we should know by now that it doesn't matter whether or not he has a stalled confidence bill to use as an excuse.

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