The Liberal Government Falls

Well, it’s finally over. On Monday, the House voted upon Stephen Harper’s motion of non-confidence (seconded by Mr. Layton) and it passed by a wide margin of 171-133. Kilgour and O’Brien voted against the government while Parrish voted for the government.

It was heartening to see the unhealthy Conservative MPs receive standing ovations for their attendance while it was particularly nice to see a warm goodbye for NDP veteran Ed Broadbent. However, as the Liberal MPs stood to vote it seemed that every fifth MP received a standing ovation from the Liberal caucus.

The Liberals certainly played the vote as some sort of odd victory in defeat. They obviously are trying to portray this as an opportunity to deliver their message, however muddled it may be, to Canadians.

Paul Martin and Stephen Harper addressed their caucuses at the same time after the vote. CBC and CTV carried Paul Martin’s speech live while they played Stephen Harper’s speech right after the PM’s. During Paul Martin’s speech, when the PM alluded to Stephen Harper and his ‘uncanadian vision for Canada’, CBC took the opportunity to show a split screen of Martin’s speech and Stephen Harper’s speech already in progress. I don’t know if it was intended or not, but it appeared that CBC used Stephen Harper as a Martin prop against the Conservative leader himself.

Paul Martin’s speech itself was given in the tone of a man who had won something, whereas history will record a Prime Minister who lost the last shred of any mandate he had left to govern. The self-proclaimed Defender of Canada stood before a large Canadian flag, wielding it as his figurative shield. He’ll use Canadiana to attack the Conservative party as uncanadian and it’s a tactic that we’ve seen before. Labeling an alliance of ‘neo-conservatives’ (huh?), the separatist Bloc and the NDP, the Prime Minister didn’t deviate from the Liberal game plan: L’état, c’est Libéral.

Stephen Harper spoke warmly about his team and the Conservative family while he gave a strong hint towards the Conservative gameplan: Gomery is the past, accountability is the future. Liberals and negative politics are the past, Conservatives and a hopeful message are the future. Hopefully we’ll see what the Conservatives will offer Canadians instead of merely criticisms of Liberal corruption. If Stephen Harper is going to Stand Up for Canada, he’ll need more than the motivated Conservative base; he’ll need the undecided voter to stand up and cheer for the Conservative platform. Hopefully his speech last night was indicative of what we can expect.

Jack Layton seemed to be the student who showed up late for his final exam. His pre-campaign launch was limited to a short speech in the lobby with a small cheat sheet of talking points. Jack missed his opportunity.

Gilles Duceppe had a similar speech at the microphone in the lobby; however, he didn’t seem to put much stock in the evening’s events. In a non-chalent manner he indicated that he’d been ready for an election for a long time.

A particular highlight of this historical first defeat of a government on a non-confidence motion was the Speaker’s announcement of a party after the vote where members could extend holiday wishes.

While Paul Martin is surely going to be waging a brutally negative campaign against the Conservatives, hopefully Stephen Harper will be able to maintain his merry mood and deliver us good cheer and a fresh start for 2006.