Ottawa’s March Madness

10/08/2018 Posted by admin

by Peter Harris

The blood sport of Ottawa politics is about to reach fever pitch. Next week will be a wild one, and predicting how it will all unfold – is like choosing the final four in the NCAA Basketball extravaganza south of the border.

So, what are the chances all this fun puts Canadian politicians on the hustings? Here is a completely unscientific, randomly chosen, day-by-day breakdown of the odds the government falls next week, sending Canadians to the polls.

MONDAY…1 in 308 chance of falling:
The opposition will land the first hit of the week. After scrapping with Ministers, a Commons committee will table a report finding the government in contempt of Parliament for holding back the price tag of its crime agenda.

The big question is: when will MPs vote on this unprecedented ruling in the House of Commons? Not Monday – this will likely happen either Wednesday or Thursday – so odds the government falls are not very good.

Expect everyone to be on their best behaviour heading into budget day.

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TUESDAY…36 in 56-billion:
Does 56 billion seem a little much? That is the size of the deficit going into Tuesday’s budget. Stephen Harper expects it will shrink by another 25 per cent over the next few months, which means there might be enough wiggle room for the Tories to make budget cuts AND spend enough to convince another party to support the budget.

How about that 36 number? This is how many NDP MPs the government will need to pass it. They might also choose to throw something at the Bloc Quebecois. In fact, anything can happen but you can be sure there won’t be a vote Tuesday.

After the budget is presented in the House of Commons at 4.00 PM ET, the opposition leaders will either declare what they will do or – especially in Jack Layton’s case – hint at what they plan to do and rest on it until Wednesday.

Photo by Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press.

WEDNESDAY…1 in 20:
The budget debate begins. By now, it should be clear whether the budget landed with a loud thud or if it has enough NDP or Bloc support. This isn’t the only test Wednesday; a vote on the contempt ruling could happen, but expect the government to push this vote off to the following week.

So what if they do vote today and find the government in contempt? Who knows where this leads, but it does not automatically bring down the government, it just makes it harder to justify keeping the lights on in the House of Commons.

THURSDAY…1 in 9:
Thursday will likely bring more budget debate and potentially the contempt debate/vote. Add an opposition amendment to the budget that will require a vote and suddenly the government is faced with a confidence motion.

At this point, there is a 100 per cent chance everyone on the Hill will be looking to the weekend for either a break or to hit the hustings.

Photo by Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press.

FRIDAY…1 in 2:
TGIF…? It depends where you sit. This is a Liberal opposition day so they get the keys to the House for a few hours. The Liberals will quickly introduce a motion listing all the reasons Parliament lost confidence in the government. If it gets the support of the NDP and Bloc, expect the Tories to pull the plug. If not, it still isn’t over.

The final trip wire is a vote on the estimates in the afternoon. This is the money that keeps government programs up and running. A vote involving money is a confidence motion, so if the opposition votes against these estimates, Canada goes to the polls.

Of course, in a week where anything can happen the odds of something unexpected happening are pretty good. As for the odds of avoiding an election altogether? They get slimmer as the week gets closer. Let the games begin.

Peter is one of Global National’s correspondents based in Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter: @PeterHarris.

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