Monday, April 18, 2005

Burn bridges once they're crossed; don't stop to say goodbye

Crikey: OTTAWA (CP) - A minority Liberal government teetering on the verge of collapse moved to wrest control Monday over the timing of its own demise. The Liberals choked off an opposition attempt to control the timetable for possibly bringing down the government. They cancelled a so-called parliamentary opposition day on Wednesday in a move foes called a desperate attempt to retain power. The Conservatives hinted they would no longer help the Liberal government remain afloat. "When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it's rapidly losing its moral authority to govern," said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. Tory House Leader Jay Hill went further. He said his party will no longer display the type of co-operation that allowed the federal budget to pass a critical vote in the Commons. Hill even hinted his party could topple the government. "We will be looking at any tools that are available to us to consider holding this government accountable," he said. "We have been endeavoring to work in a co-operative manner with this government . . . But now the gloves are off." The dispute erupted suddenly late Monday. That's desperation. Random-flailing desperation. I'd assumed that the government would take this morning's seeming overture from Jack Layton as the meaningless publicity stunt it was - his demands required for cooperation being quite a lot, considering, and thus unlikely to be accepted - but this seems like wild overreaction to their current situation. They could have played along for another day with conciliatory gestures before laying out the nuclear option. Monday's announcement raises several possible scenarios: -The government could allow opposition days to resume after next week's parliamentary spring break. -The opposition could topple the government some other way, perhaps through an upcoming budget-implementation vote. -The government could push back all eight opposition days to the end of June. The Liberals could then prorogue Parliament two weeks early, suspending its operations and table another throne speech in the fall. Or they could challenge the opposition to topple the government and trigger a rare mid-summer election. I have a horrible feeling they're going to try option #3a, and try to forbid entirely the one saving grace of parliamentary government. If the Liberals can change the rules so they can no longer fall to a confidence vote, is there a point to maintaining the Westminster system at all? Every day, in every way, Canada becomes a little bit more of a banana republic. (Via Andrew Coyne.)

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