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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Political tit for tat?

The problem with political stunts is the potential for future payback—a tit for a tat, so to speak. The then Speaker of the House of Commons Peter Milliken set off a series of events in March 2011 that led to the opposition-dominated procedure and House affairs committee ruling that the Stephen Harper government was in contempt of Parliament. This in turn triggered a confidence vote in the House of Commons that saw the minority Conservative government fall.

The contempt of Parliament charge stemmed from the Liberal-led opposition’s charge that the Conservative government had not fully disclosed the cost of its crime policies and the cost of new F-35 fighter jets.

Many believe it was purely a political stunt meant only to embarrass the government and sully its reputation. With the opposition outnumbering the Conservatives no amount of detail, many thought, would be enough to satisfy the opposition enough to avoid losing the contempt vote.

The political tables, of course, are turned in Ontario with the provincial Liberals holding power with a minority of seats in the Legislature and the Tories’ provincial affiliate, the Tim Hudak-led Progressive Conservatives, in opposition. And Ontario’s opposition parties have now voted to send a contempt motion against Energy Minister Chris Bentley to a legislative committee.

This contempt motion stemmed from the government not releasing documents on the full cost of cancelling two power plants in Oakville and Mississauga.

The question now is whether a finding of contempt could lead Ontario’s opposition parties to move a non-confidence motion in the Legislature. Should there be is a non-confidence vote and the Legislature passes it, the minority Liberal government will be obliged to resign.

Tit for tat. And so the political stunting will have come full circle.

 

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