So, the Harper government got smacked down by the speaker—now what?
Yesterday afternoon, the speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken, ruled against the Harper government on two charges. First, he found that Tories hid the costs of their crime legislation from parliamentary committees (Milliken had the opportunity to quote himself from earlier last year, making us think that the Conservatives really, really aren’t getting this “Parliament can ask whatever it wants, and the government has to answer” thing.) The second ruling surrounded Bev Oda’s creative use of the word “not” in documents before Parliament and in her testimony before committees.
So, what’s next?
The Conservatives have not yet been found in contempt of Parliament, but the opposition has started down that road. The next milestone is March 21, when they’ll come back to the House of Commons with a committee report that will almost certainly lead to a vote of contempt. If they manage to play their procedural cards right, a vote of confidence will happen before the March 22nd budget. (Remember that?)
Of course, it wouldn’t be Ottawa without some rampant speculation: at The Globe and Mail, Rob Silver argues that at this point, Stephen Harper has two options: be the opposition’s piñata for two more weeks, or go to the governor general this morning (or soon, anyway) and ask for an election immediately. There’s some convincing points to Silver’s logic, but the big hole in it is that Conservatives have spent the last year arguing that nobody wants an “unnecessary” election.
Of course, they got into all this trouble by leaving out important words like “not,” so maybe if they follow Silver’s advice they can go into the election with a new slogan: “It turned out everyone wanted an unnecessary election! Harper 2011!”
• Should the Prime Minister drop the writ tomorrow? [Globe and Mail]
• John Ivison: Harper sports two black eyes as Parliament strikes back [National Post]
• A government in contempt, no doubt [Globe and Mail]