Poison Pill: How Ontario's Progressive Conservatives are Trying to Trigger an Election

June 18, 2012 by  

It is becoming increasingly clear that Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives are scheming to trigger another Ontario election this week. Moreover, it is being done in a way designed to make the Liberals look as though they are to blame.

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath today said that she had vowed to “let” the budget motion succeed (not the bill, but the policy and planning blueprint released and voted upon weeks ago) and that she had kept that promise. What she meant was that she and her whole party abstained from voting, which gave the Liberals a numerical advantage over the PCs when the blueprint was voted upon. She said that she also was promising to “let” the budget bill pass this coming Wednesday. Her language implies that she again will have her members abstain from the vote on the budget bill, such that the success or failure of the budget will come down to a vote between the Liberals and the PCs.

However, it is looking increasingly like there is no intention actually to have that vote. According to the news reports we are receiving, the committee reviewing the budget bill is making hundreds of amendments to it. At least four are NDP amendments to strip the bill of certain provisions regarding the arbitration of disputes with unions. Although the PCs have campaigned in favour of resolving contract disputes by way of arbitration, they have backed those NDP budget amendments, thereby tearing substantive portions of the budget out of the bill (contrary to the will of the Liberal government). The PCs also reportedly have supported NDP amendments to kill Liberal provisions that would have allowed outsourcing various government services to the private sector. Reportedly, the PCs alone have also introduced over 100 amendments to the budget bill.

Implicit in making a large number of substantive amendments to the bill, without the support of the governing Liberals, is a rejection of the bill put forth by the government. There is no substantive difference between on the one hand voting against the Liberal bill as it was, and on the other hand voting to eliminate so many substantive provisions of the Liberal bill that one is implicitly rejecting the bill as a whole. Accordingly, to completely butcher a government money bill in committee is tantamount to declaring that the government lacks the confidence of the Legislature. As a result, the Premier may well feel that he must advise the Lieutenant Governor that the government lacks the confidence of the Legislature. The result: unless the Lieutenant Governor appoints another government, we hold another provincial election.

The PCs have made it clear that they will vote against the budget bill even if their 100+ amendments are adopted. So, for the PCs, what purpose is served by supporting left-wing NDP budget bill amendments and proposing over one hundred amendments of their own?

Increasingly, it is looking to be the case that the PCs are trying to introduce a poison pill into the budget. They are trying to so substantially alter the Liberal budget bill that it no longer can honestly be said to be the same bill; to change the bill so much that the Liberals no longer can vote for it. The PCs having voted against their own preferences in order to defeat significant portions of the Liberal budget bill, their plan seems clear enough: they want another election, but they want to make it look as though the election would not have happened had the Liberals simply showed a more co-operative spirit by voting in favour of the budget as amended by the opposition.

However, that is a losing argument for the PCs. Even before the content of the budget bill was released, the PCs vowed to vote against it. The PCs cannot claim that they have the co-operative spirit that the Liberals lack. Moreover, a party that intends to win a majority government is best advised not to speak of the alleged virtues of having to co-operate with other parties.

The Liberal government of Ontario has indeed proved itself unwilling to accept fiscal realities and to deal with the current world wide economic crisis and its impact on budget priorities. However, rest assured ladies and gentlemen that, if this budget fails to pass, and Ontario is thrust into its second election in less than a year, it will be due to Progressive Conservative shenanigans having the sole purpose of giving the PCs another kick at the electoral can. One can only hope that, if we end up in an election so soon, Ontario voters give the PCs the boot, and look elsewhere for a party of fiscal responsibility. May I suggest: Freedom Party of Ontario?


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