Thursday, May 12, 2005

Does Martin really want to win the May 19 vote?

Much of this post will be hypothetical speculation, for that I apologise. Unfortunately this speculation at least tangentially involves the health of two respected legislators, and for that I apologise even more profusely.

So, here's the question: Does Martin want to win the vote next Thursday or does he just want to be sure that he loses on the budget and not something else? I guess there are four cases:

1. Positive Martin win:
All 307 MPs are there. Either through Newfoundland Tories or all the Independents voting for him Martin gets a majority. And it is clear that had everyone been in attendance he would have won on the 10th. If it takes Milliken's vote it's a TKO but he still does win.

2. Negative Martin win:
Both ailing Tory MPs are absent and only two of the three Independents vote for the government. This produces a tie vote broken by the Speaker. In this situation Martin would have lost on the 10th even if everyone had been there but now looks to be capitalising on illness.

3. Martin loss:
Some combination produces an opposition majority. What combination is really irrelevent unless the two Tories from Newfoundland manage to vote in favour of or abstain from voting on the budget and it still fails.

4. Martin meltdown:
I place the likelihoood of this happening at somewhere around .01%. Broadbent said Tuesday's vote was a confidence vote. The future of the corporate tax cuts is uncertain. What if the Liberal-NDP pact falls apart before the budget comes to a vote?

To return to the principle question, what can Martin do even if he gets a "positive win"? After the media firestorm this week can he really expect to stay in government until next January? I suppose he truly believes that he can.

Even more to the point what does he do with a negative win? Of course, this situation is only caused by the fact that Cadman and Kilgour have childlishly (yes, I said it, and neither of them will be reading this so what does it matter?) refused to stay committed to one side or another. Total silence from them would have been barely acceptable but they have both been flip-flopping so many times that credibility is definitely waning. Can he risk the possibility that Harper's inexcusable, low-blow (yep, said that too) accusation was right on the mark? Doesn't that put us into a "summer election is acceptable all bets are off" situation?

At least with a loss he can hit the campaign trail running and look more like Layton than Harper on the "we're here for government not power" front. Would he be willing to take a dive on the budget vote next week if it looks like the combination of absent, ill MPs and independent votes might produce a negative win? This is a "through the looking glass" moment for Canadians when backroom maneouvres come to the forefront. IMHO, the only party that will benefit from Canadians seeing the jabberwocky that is the Canadian parliamentary system is the one that most prominently features democratic reform.


Blogger Jason Cherniak said...

I suppose the other side to this question is whether Harper actually wants to win. I could actually see him preferring your second possibility. It would allow him to ignore Martin's win and keep calling him a dictator.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Rhetoric said...

Very good point. I'm not quite as willing to engage in the implicit Harper character assassination that this entails--i.e. he's hoping that Stinson and Chatters are both too sick to be there on Thursday. I don't mean to be too cynical (ha, as if anyone still thinks there is such a thing) but maybe if it looks like it will help, the CPC leadership very quietly tells Stinson and Chatters to "not push their health unnecessarily."

In the end I think the only way that Harper chooses 2 over 3 is either: a.) he knows the NDP will be so disgusted that they'll drop their support of the government and back a spring election, or b.) he has some very very good reason to believe he'll benefit from a winter '06 election and has only been play-acting for the benefit of his election-rabid supporters.

You're right though, obviously aside from the genuine humanity of caring for the health of his colleagues, he would prefer 2 over 1.

11:40 PM  

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