Strikingly, Mr. Dion remained silent
again on the issue of the Throne Speech Friday despite Liberal
MPs publicly asking what the next move from the party should be.
Mr. Dion was in his Ottawa office Friday working on strategy
with his officials.
Party officials told The Globe and Mail
that the Liberals can forestall government confidence motions by
extending debate, amending bills or counting on other opposition
parties to support the government on certain bills.
One person familiar with the Liberal
thinking said the Liberals could even look for ways to defeat
the government on issues that play to their strengths.
One example might be Mr. Harper's pledge
to restrict the federal government's right to spend federal
government money in areas of provincial jurisdiction. The
Liberals believe most voters want the government to maintain
that right and that it could be an election issue.
The source said that Ms. Sénécal's
appointment has helped bring focus to the debate.
“We've gone from sleepwalking to
Liberals also argued Friday that Mr.
Harper's ultimatum makes the Prime Minister look power hungry.
Indeed, some actually said they would keep the Tories in the
House of Commons just to demonstrate his strong-arm tactics.
Liberal candidate and past leadership
candidate Gerard Kennedy said Mr. Harper was contributing to a
false state of election panic.
“I don't think that we should take it as
anything else but almost adolescent, in-your-face stuff.” He
noted that Mr. Harper's fortunes declined last spring after his
party opened its election headquarters.
Others wanted to see whether Mr. Harper
would follow through with his threat to call a number of
“If, in fact, we don't vote down the
Throne Speech then I would say [to Mr. Harper], ‘Okay, show the
public what you really mean by pushing everybody to the wall,' ”
said former Liberal leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay.
“He is trying to govern as if he had a
majority, and his attitude was absolutely so clear in that press
conference: ‘My way or the highway.' ”
Toronto Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, also
a former leadership contender, said her caucus would have to see
what is in the Throne Speech before deciding its next move.
“The Prime Minister is just continuing
to demonstrate that he is a bully and doesn't understand that
the people of Canada elected a minority Parliament so that his
policies would be moderated,” Ms. Bennett said.
One Liberal aware of the most recent
thinking said “there is no way” that the party wants a fall
“You don't go to war … without all of
your munitions,” the Liberal said. The party is seen as behind
in organizational terms and a poorer than usual financial
The source said that strategists don't
want to go to the people at this point and that Mr. Harper's
most recent statements don't change the situation.
There are three confidence votes
scheduled later this month on the Throne Speech, and another
life-or-death vote could be held on the November fiscal update.
The government also can quickly start to introduce bills once
the House has reconvened, with the opportunity to pronounce
second-reading votes on the bills to be issues of confidence.
However, the government can only be
defeated if all three opposition parties are united.
If the Liberals want to keep the
Parliament alive, they can ask a few MPs to abstain or not show
up for votes. The opposition can delay confidence votes on
government bills by putting forward long lists of speakers
during debates and prevent the government from imposing closure
and forcing the bills to a vote.