Celebrating 25 Years of Scoop
Special: Up To 25% Off Scoop Pro Learn More



Cablegate: Liberal Budget Passes at Conservative,S Expense

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The Liberal Government,s Federal budget
passed March 9 by a vote of 132 to 73, after the largest mass
abstention in Canadian Parliamentary history by the
Opposition Conservative Party. The Conservatives were
anxious to avoid an election, and given the roughly even
numbers of opposition and government in Parliament, were
effectively forced to abstain from their own opposition
amendment lest they bring the government down. The big
winners in the showdown were the Bloc Quebecois, which showed
itself as the only party that is truly ready to go to
elections, and the Liberals, who watched their opponent flail
about but in the end got their budget passed. End Summary

2. (SBU) The federal budget was tabled on February 23. The
Official Opposition Conservative Party (99 of 308 seats)
stated that with polls indicating Canadians do not want an
election, they would not work to defeat the budget. The key
question was what the Bloc Quebecois (54 seats) and the New
Democratic Party (19 seats) would do. The approval system
calls for a vote on a sub-amendment by the third largest
party (Bloc Quebecois), followed by the main amendment by the
Official Opposition (Conservatives). Under a normal majority
government, these amendments are merely a chance for the
opposition to register complaints and score political points,
but in the end the governing party will simply pass the
budget. In a minority government, however, the amendments
take on much greater importance, especially since the budget
is an obvious confidence vote. The trick for the
Conservatives was how to play the role of the opposition
without forcing an election. They hoped to do this by
inserting things the Bloc and NDP could not accept, such as
tax cuts, criticism of environmental and child-care spending,
and lamenting the budget,s &lack of Conservative values,8
thus forcing the Bloc and NDP to vote for the government,s
budget and leaving the Conservatives alone in opposition.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Shoot Out with the Bloc

3. (SBU) The Bloc, emboldened by its continuing popularity in
Quebec and not fearing elections, was in no mood to go along,
however. The voting process for the budget began on March 7
with the Bloc Quebecois, sub-amendment being quickly
defeated. Prior to the vote on the Conservative amendment
March 8, Liberal House Leader Valerie announced his
understanding that the Bloc would vote to support the
Conservative amendment, thus passing the amendment and
crashing the government. Chief of Staff to the Bloc House
Leader told us that this was a possibility, but would only be
decided at a Bloc caucus meeting an hour before the vote.
The Conservatives could not take a chance, so were forced to
position their member,s votes such that they ensured the
defeat of their own amendment. They did this by leaving
some members outside the House to guarantee the amendment
would fail even with Bloc support, which did not come
through. In the end the Bloc voted against and the
Conservatives abstained from the Conservative amendment, not
a good day for opposition coalition building.

Mass Abstention

4. (SBU) The final budget vote was held on March 9.
Following the previous day,s close call, Conservative House
Leader Jay Hill announced that the Conservative Party would
abstain en masse from the budget vote in order not to spark
an undesired election. Later, Conservative Leader Harper
suggested the mass abstention was actually a protest,
designed to send a message of disapproval to the government
while still allowing the budget to pass. In the largest
abstention in Canadian Parliamentary history, the 82
Conservatives MPs on the floor did not vote for or against
the budget but simply remained sitting throughout. (Note:
traditionally MPs only abstain when they wish to voice strong
personal or constituent opposition to a motion without openly
defying their leaders or the party position. The
conventional way to influence voting when numbers must be
withdrawn, is to arrange for MPs to be absent from the House,
something that is easier to explain to constituents than the
passive-aggressive motion of simply not participating. End
Note) The final vote was 132 in favor of the budget (all
Liberals plus one independent), to 73 against (all the Bloc
and the NDP).

5. (SBU) Comment: In the end there appears to be several
winners and one loser in this process. The Liberal Party
clearly came out on top because their budget was passed and
they did not have to give much up in the process. With a
generous budget and a recent, successful party convention
behind them the Liberals have come across looking good and
may see their numbers start to go up as a result, especially
as the new spending kicks in. The Bloc Quebecois was also a
clear winner, by making both the Liberals and Conservatives
stand up and take notice that the Bloc must be reckoned with.
The NDP wins with their own constituents because they are
the only party to have avoided brinkmanship games while
sticking to party policy throughout the process. An NDP
official also told us that the party will be jumping on this
opportunity to target ridings in Western Canada where a
Conservative defeated an NDP candidate by less than 200
votes. Reportedly, there are 20 such seats ready for NDP
plucking. The NDP will use the mass abstention as proof that
the Conservative Party plays political games and is not
representing the people effectively. The clear loser was the
Conservative Party, which not only had to scramble to ensure
the defeat of its own amendment, but was forced to abstain
from the most important vote of the season. It was not what
the Opposition is supposed to be doing on the Hill, and
tarnished the Party,s image considerably. The Conservatives
will need to dig out at the upcoming convention.

Visit Canada's Classified Web Site at


© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.