Canadian Government Barricades The Doors
Toronto Star’s Chantel Herbert on the “political suicide” of the governing minority Liberals. (free registration)
The irony of the situation was almost certainly lost on the panic-stricken government of Paul Martin. Even as it was unveiling lofty plans to spread Canadian-style democracy to the remotest areas of the planet yesterday, it was scrambling for ways to use its powers to short-circuit it in Parliament.
Only one week after he proclaimed that he still had the moral authority to govern, Martin has become a prime minister on the run from the opposition parties. Since yesterday, the House of Commons has been operating under the political equivalent of a government-imposed lockout of the opposition. To avoid, or at least postpone, the defeat of his minority government, Martin has fallen back on what can only be described as desperation. It involves pushing off the days set aside for opposition motions as far into the spring as possible.
The government has also signalled that the budget implementation bill – its top priority at least until recently – will now not come up for adoption for a number of weeks. If Martin had wanted to convince Canadians that he no longer enjoyed the confidence of the Commons, he would not have acted differently.
Short of introducing a non-confidence motion, defeating the government on the budget is the other obvious avenue available to the opposition to bring it down. But while a minority prime minister can always run from Parliament for a while, as Martin has done since last week, he cannot hide forever. As Liberal strategists certainly know, their latest ploy stands to have made a snap election even more inevitable. It basically ensures that the notion that this minority government can no longer function will now become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Faced with the increasingly certain prospect of a swift execution at the hands of the opposition sometime over the next few weeks, the government may well simply have chosen the sword on which it will eventually fall. One way or another, what was set in motion on Parliament Hill this week was the suicide of the minority Liberal government.