MPs might have to stock up on stamina (and caffeine) as they brace for what could be a marathon voting session in the House of Commons.
Today is one of the Conservatives’ ‘opposition days’, meaning they can set the agenda and the topic for debate and have the power to trigger a long, continuous round of voting.
The Conservative Opposition, hoping to delay Tuesday’s budget, originally threatened to kick off the Commons endurance test on Monday to protest the government’s handling of the ongoing SNC-Lavalin affair.
But the Liberals stepped in and pushed the opposition day to Wednesday.
Mark Kennedy, a spokesperson for Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger, said the Official Opposition is in a position to call more than 250 separate votes — which could drag out the voting process into Friday.
Now is normally the time when government MPs fan out across the country to sell their constituents on a new budget. But because each of these votes deals with fiscal matters, they’d be considered votes of confidence.
Losing a confidence vote can trigger a general election. So Liberal MPs may want to stick close to their desks.
The Conservatives used a similar tactic last March after the Liberals opposed bringing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser before a committee to talk about the PM’s India trip.
The first order of business later today will be a Conservative motion calling on the government to have the Commons “take note” of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s comments about the SNC-Lavalin affair, and asking the prime minister to waive solicitor-client privilege to allow her to speak publicly about the January cabinet shuffle. The Liberal majority is expected to vote that motion down.
Next up: votes on the supplementary estimates — previously announced federal initiatives — which have to be passed before the end of the fiscal year.
Last week, the Conservatives took the rare (but not unprecedented) step of putting forward 257 separate motions to oppose specific proposed funding allotments in the estimates. That sheer volume of motions is what could keep MPs burning the midnight oil late into the week.
The Conservatives haven’t said for certain that they’ll go ahead with a marathon voting session, but they’ve been threatening to use all measures available to them to put pressure on Trudeau over the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Yesterday, the Liberal-dominated committee voted to end their investigation into allegations the Prime Minister’s Office and other officials inappropriately pressured Wilson-Raybould, justice minister and attorney general at the time, to allow Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal prosecution on bribery charges providing it met certain conditions in a remediation agreement.
The Tories retaliated by drowning out Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget speech, banging on their desks and chanting “let her speak” — a reference to Wilson-Raybould, whose resignation from cabinet last month over the SNC-Lavalin controversy has left the government on the defensive for weeks.