Budget brinksmanship and summer scenarios

Canadians might have thought that the budget showdown was over when Chuck Cadman stood, chewing his gum, to vote to keep the government alive in the closest confidence vote in Canadian history.

But, it’s not over yet. The budget still has to go through the finance committee, on which the Liberals and NDP lack majority influence. Tories plan to examine the budget bill and the NDP amendment very closely and stretch out the committee work to push the 3rd reading past the summer Parliamentary recess date.

Why would they do this? The answer is simple and amounts to some simple parliamentary strategy. Jack Layton, fresh off of his first taste of power, made a public statement declaring that the budget bills should pass before the summer break or the Liberals will lose NDP support. So, what does this mean for the Conservatives? Divorce the NDP from the Liberals by stalling the budget in committee, allow the NDP to take the high-ground by letting them say to the public that “they tried to make Parliament work”, and leave the Liberals without a final vote on the budget.

The NDP will respond by demanding that Parliament work through the summer, and depending on the polls, the summer break might be cancelled.

However, if the polls show a strong Liberal lead, the Grits may table their own confidence motion staging their own demise and will run on the budget that almost was. Conservatives may try to bank upon this by counting upon low summer pro-corruption turnout versus a high(er) summer anti-corruption voter turnout. While the Labrador byelection saw a predictable Liberal win, it saw an increase in voter turnout, which mostly turned out to vote Conservative.

Allow defeat before the summer break to force an election in the middle of summer? The NDP might just go for it if they’ve matured into their own party, instead of cheap Liberal backups.