Tuesday, May 31, 2005

May 31, 2005: Edmonton Journal: Tories Backing Off Confidence Votes...

Tories backing off confidence votes: Exhausted MPs skip question period
Edmonton Journal
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Page: A7
Section: News
Byline: Anne Dawson
Dateline: OTTAWA
Source: CanWest News Service CanWest News Service

OTTAWA - Attempts to topple the Liberal government this spring have been abandoned as opposition parties conceded Monday they cannot continue the high-stakes brinkmanship they have practised in recent weeks.

After a month of high drama on Parliament Hill ended in failure two weeks ago for the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois when they lost a vote of confidence on the budget, the House of Commons on Monday was a wasteland of exhausted MPs, some 80 of whom did not even bother to show up for work.

In fact, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper ducked out of question period after he asked his first round of questions, about 10 minutes after it started, and was not seen again.

"We're prepared to have an election if the government tries to jab through things that we think would damage the public. But ... I'm not going to tell you that we're running out there looking to push a confidence motion to have an election. You can't take the country to the brink every week and be perceived to be responsible," said Tory MP Monte Solberg.

In explaining the poor attendance and lack of energy in the Commons, Solberg said it is usual that on "Mondays, people are pretty tired typically coming in (from their ridings to Ottawa), but insisted everyone will get "fired up" in the coming weeks.

Although the official Opposition has its first opportunity to defeat the minority government today in what is called an opposition day, which allows the opposition to set the agenda, Conservative House leader Jay Hill announced his party will bring forward a motion to expand the mandate of the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal, instead.

With Gomery scheduled to report his findings by the end of the year, it is highly unlikely the Liberals would change the entire mandate of the inquiry to allow the judge to press criminal charges, as requested by the opposition. As well, the vote is not a confidence matter, which means even if the government loses the vote on the motion, it is not bound to act.

During Monday's question period, NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe also hammered away at the government over the suspicious taped recording of backroom negotiations between the prime minister's chief of staff, Tim Murphy, and B.C. Tory MP Gurmant Grewal.

They have called for an RCMP investigation into the taped conversations, in which the two men were negotiating the future possibility of a plum posting for Grewal and his wife, Tory MP Nina Grewal, in exchange for their support on the budget.

Although it has been almost two weeks since Grewal came forward to accuse the Liberals of attempting to bribe him with a diplomatic post, the Conservatives have yet to release the entire transcript of the tapes.