Thursday, October 18, 2007

Harper reloads with Crime Ultimatum

So far I have been correct about the Liberals not voting against the Throne Speech. Now I will predict that they will not vote against the Omnibus Crime Bill either. Harper is shoving it to the Liberals every chance he gets and the Liberals will do nothing but make a lot of noise, sound and fury signifying nothing.
Some in the media have at times tried to soften things for the Liberals. Some say there was no poison pill in the Throne speech! No just repudiation of Kyoto, refusal to commit to ending the combat mission in Afghanistan in Feb. 2009 and on and on. What did they expect Harper to do?Commit troops to Iraq?

Harper reloads with crime ultimatum
Government won't accept amendments to bill, PM says after Liberals attempt to dodge bullet by abstaining on Throne Speech

With reports from Gloria Galloway and Brian Laghi

October 18, 2007

OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper brushed past the Liberals' decision yesterday to abstain from voting on the Throne Speech, staking the government's survival on a new uncompromising stand on crime legislation.

While Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's move means the government will survive early confidence votes on its broad agenda - avoiding an immediate election campaign - Mr. Harper quickly said he would set a potential new obstacle in Mr. Dion's path.

The Prime Minister insisted his government will not accept any amendments to an omnibus crime bill that will revive a series of bills killed when he prorogued Parliament.

And Conservative sources said the new omnibus legislation will strip out some amendments that had been passed in the last session - forcing the opposition to accept at least some measures they deemed unacceptable last term.
"They have to agree to it, or we'll have an election," said Jay Hill, the Conservative government's chief whip.

Whether the new omnibus bill will truly set the government on a collision course with the opposition depends on the details - and the Prime Minister's spokesmen pointedly refused to reveal any.

That bill will be tabled today, but it is still unclear how long it will take before it reaches the stage where it would be put to a confidence vote.

A Conservative source said that one portion, on tougher sentences for gun crimes, will reflect NDP amendments the Tories had accepted in the last session, but other portions of the new bill will undo opposition amendments - daring them to back down.

Mr. Harper adopted a new, harder tone on both crime legislation and Afghanistan immediately after Mr. Dion declared Liberal MPs would abstain from voting on the Throne Speech.

Mr. Dion said his party will not vote because Canadians do not want an election, although he blasted many elements of the Throne Speech, especially the government's position on climate-change measures, and offered his own amendments.

"If they are rejected, we will do as the NDP, when it decided on Oct. 16, 2006, to abstain on the vote on the softwood lumber agreement in order to avoid causing an election," Mr. Dion said in a Commons speech.

He quoted Mr. Harper's own reasons, when he was leader of the opposition, for abstaining on a 2005 budget vote to avoid an early election, and when he was pressed in debate later by the NDP, Mr. Dion pointed to the Prime Minister and added, "It worked for him and it will work for me."

Mr. Harper then said the government will not only make its new crime bill a confidence matter that could trigger an election, but also that changes would not be allowed.

"We will be seeking timely passage of this legislation, and as is the case with confidence measures, the government will not accept amendments to the substance of these initiatives."

Opposition politicians said they will wait to see the details of the crime bill today, but charged that the Conservatives are trying to create another showdown.

After the government indicated in its Throne Speech that it would table the crime bill, both the Liberals and NDP said they did not expect a confrontation. Amended versions of most of the previous bills had been passed in various stages in the Commons, but had not yet passed through the Senate, making them law.

However, if important changes are stripped out, there will be a confrontation, they said.

"The showdown here is not a sincere effort to get legislation passed," Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale said last night. "It's obviously intended to continue the atmosphere of crisis."

The New Democrats, who had struck deals with the Tories to amend several of the predecessor crime bills, were livid.

"Obviously they have decided they want an election, they've decided they want to run that election on the crime file. They are quite prepared to sacrifice the interests of victims of crime that some of this legislation in fact would help," NDP justice critic Joe Comartin said.

"This is pure partisan politics at its worst."

Mr. Harper also hardened his tone on Afghanistan.

He indicated that his Throne Speech assertion that Canadians should remain in Afghanistan after the current mission ends in 2009 to train Afghan forces means that he wants Canadian troops to stay in the dangerous Kandahar region until 2011.

"We will continue our preferences to continue that track and we believe it should be completed by 2011," Mr. Harper said.

Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre later insisted that position is still vague, because it is unclear whether the government wants to keep a large contingent of troops in combat activities after 2009.

Even before the showdown on the crime bill, there are still several votes before the Conservative Throne Speech is approved by the Commons.

Mr. Dion tabled an amendment attacking the speech on climate change, Afghanistan, the economy and poverty, but it will not pass because the Tories and the NDP, at least, will reject it.

"An amendment that calls for us to stay longer in Afghanistan, doesn't even mention Bill C-30 [the Clean Air Act] that was supposed to be so important, calls for a big corporate tax cut and otherwise spends time congratulating their failed record isn't a serious amendment or proposal," Mr. Layton said. "They are clearly playing some kind of parliamentary game and it's frankly just sad."

The Bloc Québécois also presented a subamendment that will not pass. It calls on the government to dramatically limit its spending power in areas of provincial jurisdiction and names the Liberals as culprits in the failure of Canada to meet Kyoto greenhouse-gas reduction targets.

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