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.


  1. The one scenario you did not mention is Iggy asking some of his MP’s to (wink wink . . . nudge nudge) get sick the day of the vote. This way the government is not defeated but Iggy can keep on blustering about how much better the Liberals could do things.

  2. Or, what if about 12 MPs cross the floor or sit as independants because they are listening to their constituents who say they DO NOT want an election.

  3. @PK - I hope not, but that's a possibility. I don't put much stock in it, though. The Liberals are ready for an election, and would likely do better than last year with Dion as leader (though he's my favourite).

    @Marie - 12 MPs? That's a lot. What would be the reason other than avoiding an election? I don't think that's enough by itself to warrant leaving the party. Which party(ies) would you speculate for the deserters? And why only 12? What would be the point unless you had 22?

  4. Didn't the speaker vote to "continue the debate" last time there was a confidence vote tie ?

  5. 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.

    I don't think so. Merboy's right. Peter M. may have been elected as a Liberal MP, but as the *Speaker*, I believe he'd be duty-bound to support the government on a tie vote, regardless of the party in charge at the time.

    Keep in mind that from the moment he was (re-)elected as Speaker, he stopped going to Liberal caucus meetings, and generally speaking, acts like an independent MP until the House is dissolved.

    I doubt we'll see a tie vote in any event, but if we did, it won't fall on a Speaker's vote, unless that Speaker wants to throw a LOT of precedent out the window.

  6. Thanks MERBOY, Jason. I'll take your word for it, I'm not that familiar with the speaker's job. It probably won't come to tie, anyway.