Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"Mr. Speaker, the long, tiring, unproductive era of bickering between the provincial and federal governments is over."

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, doing his best George Bush "mission accomplished" imitation. I don't think you can under-estimate how devastating this vote is for the government:
The Conservative government is scrambling to avert an embarrassing political spectacle after one of its own opposed the federal budget implementation bill in a preliminary vote Tuesday night.

Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey says the bill - which sets the March 19 budget into action - breaks a promise by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to his home province on resource revenue.

Casey is vowing to vote No again later this week when the bill goes to third and final reading in the House of Commons unless there are changes allowing Nova Scotia to reap the full benefit of its offshore oil and gas wealth without losing any equalization payments.

Casey risks being kicked out of the Tory caucus but he says he must vote his conscience and hopes for a compromise before the final vote.

Assuming there is no compromise, this one vote has broader ramifications than first blush would suggest. If the Conservative MP's in the three provinces in question had held together, there was at least the appearance of a counter-argument. With Casey's decision, all the other Conservative MP's look weak, less-principled and their retorts lack credibility. Now, not only do these MP's have to defend a bad budget, they also have to answer why they didn't join their counterpart on principle. This fact may explain why MacKay has been part of the key meetings to keep Casey on side.

This is a good deal for Nova Scotia, and by extension Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, doesn't quite jive with the reality of the longest serving Conservative MP leaving the party over the issue. I can't wait for the feeble spin.


Good question:

Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert, who has been feuding himself with his federal counterparts over equalization, praised Casey.

''The question many people in Saskatchewan are asking, including myself is: where are our members of Parliament?'' Calvert told The Canadian Press. ''Where is the courage to stand up for their province?''


The final moments prior to the vote, reveal desperation, that looks like amateur hour. Last second dealing (what about those principles?), verbal agreements, later written text. The flurry of activity tells us all we need to know about the ramifications:
As the clock wound down towards the vote, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn along with some senior staffers hauled the wayward MP into an anteroom. They claimed they had struck a deal with Casey's home province - one that would preserve Nova Scotia's treasured offshore royalty accord.

"I said: 'Where is it?' Do you have it on paper?" Casey told The Canadian Press in an interview late Tuesday.

"They said: 'We don't have it on paper yet.' They were

After Tuesday's vote Casey claimed to have been shown a written copy of an agreement that apparently satisfies his province's demands, one that includes millions of dollars in spending. But he couldn't recall the details.


Karen said...

The spin has been feeble and won't hold up. I think Casey is quite courageous, given what we've heard of this government.

I don't know if he'll be booted from caucus, perhaps that high powered meeting with Hill, MacKay and Flaherty, was to provide him with a stragety to sit it out, or, maybe it was to strongarm him, in a party sort of way.

If he's not kicked out, he still took a principled stance where other did not. He'll be shunned by the hardliners. If he is, well you can be darned sure he'll have the support of his constituents.

How many PC's are left in that caucus anyway? Depending on how this is handled, it may be the tip of the iceberg.

Political moves to an extent, to be sure, but it was nice to see NDP and Lib members defending him. He seems to garner genuine respect.

ottlib said...

He just voted against the government on a money bill. That by definitions is a vote of non-confidence on the government. So it will be interesting to see if the Conservatives keep him in caucus.

After all, it would be very odd to indicate you do not have confidence in the government and then stay with that same government.

As for the effect of this on the other MPs, the damage has already been done.

If he sticks to his principles and it leads to changes in the budget then they will look weak for not joining him in his efforts.

If no change to budget is forthcoming and he sticks to his principles and votes against the government again it will put the lack of principle of the other Conservative MPs from the affected provinces in sharp contrast.

Karen said...

Really? That was the vote tonight? I thought it was a technicality sort of vote. I didn't see the whole thing and certainly did not see him not stand...couldn't find him.

Did the rest of the House applaud?

When's the next vote, Thursday?

Oxford County Liberals said...

Yes they did, and late breaking news, he's been expelled from the Conservative Caucus - which as I said at my blog (in a slight partisan jab of course) was not unexpected.

Karen said...

"Hill says Casey resisted a number of tries to talk him out of his stand."

Scooped that from your blog Scott. Talk him out of his stand? So, they were putting the screws to him...sad. Duff has the let out of the meeting on tape...won't be played again though.

You either stand for something or you don't. Comuzzi did the same thing. I disagree with him, but he stood for what he believed. They know the risk.

I wonder what Casey will do? Comuzzi...old and will move on. Casey, popular and more so now.

Wait and see I guess.

Karen said...

"We will not throw a member out of caucus for voting his conscience," MacKay said. "There will be no whipping, flipping, hiring or firing on budget votes as we saw with the Liberal government."

Casey told reporters that because of the mixed message between Hill and MacKay "there's a conflict here. They haven't decided yet."

However, when Hill spoke with reporters to announce Casey was no longer in the Tory caucus the prime minister's chief of staff was standing nearby watching and listening to the scrum.


Steve V said...

As a side note, May now has something healthy to chew on with MacKay.

I added an update of Sask's Calvert's comments.

ottlib said...

In defence of the Conservatives he did deserve to be thrown out of caucus. I would think it is another matter of principle that you cannot indicate you do not have confidence in the government and still remain part of that government.

I felt the same way when Jean Chretien turfed John Nunziata, who also indicated he did not have confidence in the government when he voted against a Liberal budget.

Still, the political optics are horrible for the Conservatives and I have no problem with that.

As well, the real fun is going to happen in the coming weeks as we see where Mr. Casey ends up. Does he remain an independent? What party, if any, does he run for in the next election?

Fun and games.

Anonymous said...

What speaks volumes to me - I read that Casey was talking to his wife about a proposal the CPC were giving him - she asked if it was in writing and he said no.

Obviously, Casey doesn't feel his party are to be trusted.