Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Some analysis of a confidence vote

If 143 Conservative MPs vote confidence in the government, then at least 144 of the remaining 164 MPs (the speaker is excluded) must vote no confidence to defeat it. If 22 or more MPs of any party or combination of parties are absent or abstain, the government survives. If exactly 21 MPs don't vote then the 143:143 tie is broken by the speaker (Liberal Peter Miliken), who would likely defeat the government.

Since no one party has 144 MPs in the house, no one party can defeat the government. No one party can trigger an election (unless Mr. Harper requests the Governor General, again).

Since no party has declared their MPs will have a free vote, we should assume all MPs present in the house will vote with their party line.

If any MP avoids the upcoming confidence vote without sufficient cause, they express support for the government.

So therefore, any MP absent without sufficient cause is either:
  1. expressing their parties support for the government [cover your ears] EVEN IF THAT PARTY VOTES NO CONFIDENCE, or
  2. expressing their individual support for the government against the party line.
If it's #2 the party should take some action to discipline the individual MPs afterward. If no action is taken, ipso facto it must be #1.

If any party or combination of parties allows enough absent MPs to avoid passing a motion of no confidence, then they should be identified as supporting the government [cover your ears] EVEN IF THOSE PARTIES (THAT PARTY) VOTE(S) NO CONFIDENCE.

Either the BQ or NDP could allow the government to continue, in exchange for something from the Conservatives. However, the Conservatives may think they'd emerge from an election with yet another minority anyway, and therefore wouldn't gain much by avoiding an election. If the Conservatives think they'd lose the election they should definitely offer something, to retain power as the economy improves (another questionable assumption, but it's a popular opinion now). My guess is no deal because they think they'll get at least another minority. Rather, I expect the government to 'dare' the other parties to defeat it with aggressive motions designed to drive election issues and support their platform.

I think the most confusing scenario would be if some combination of absent BQ and NDP allowed the government to survive, with no reward from the Conservatives (e.g. that each thought they'd lose out in an election). In other words an implicit NDP-BQ 'coalition' of support for Conservatives, to avoid an election. Ouch, the tin foil is too tight on my head. If the government comes out with aggressive, ideological motions this won't be possible at all.

So, I guess I'm expecting an election. No predicitions though, yet.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A simpler question of confidence

The problem with marking some motion of parliament as a confidence matter is that it complicates the issue. Are you voting for the motion or the government? These two are not the same.

If a motion of non-confidence in the government is introduced by itself with no other provisions, this simplifies the question. Do you have (enough) confidence, or not?

Only if a majority of MPs agree will the government be defeated. In this case, it would require all Liberal, NDP and BQ MPs to agree to defeat the Conservative government. No one of them alone, or even 2 together, could trigger an election.

A simpler question changes the perception when favours and considerations are exchanged as justification for support. Side deals are still possible of course, but more difficult to spin since you have nothing to show for your support - just promises. You really must have confidence in the government if you're going on promises alone, quite literally.

Liberals shoudn't vote down ways and means

Liberals shouldn't necessarily vote down a Conservative ways and means motion on September 14th. Especially, not without reading it. It should be given due consideration on its merits. If the motion is an implementation matter (say, of the renovation tax credit) of the earlier spring budget, then perhaps it should be passed for the same reasons the spring budget passed.

The real issues are:
  1. Have the Conservatives executed that budget effectively in a timely manner?
  2. Has the stimulus money been focused on stimulus or patronage?
I have no idea why the Conservatives would wait until now to motion for the reno credit. What were they waiting for (other than obvious poloitical reasons)?

I'd like to read the Conservatives' progress report, or some other information indicating where the stimulus money went. Surely, someone knows.

  • In general terms, perhaps the budget was a reasonable compromise.
  • The budget devil is in the details of its execution.
  • That execution was lacking in quality and timeliness.
  • Poor execution is justification for no confidence.