The reasoning, that forces everyone to toe the line, is more a question on optics, rather than a practical threat to the official position. In the grand scheme, nothing will really change, should these MP's vote against the budget, the political reality remains in tact, while these MP's maintain their credibility with their constituents. Danny Williams isn't blaming the Liberals for their budget stance, but he clearly is pushing for a statement:
“I know they're in a tough spot,” Mr. Williams said.
But even if the Liberal MPs vote against the budget, it would pass with the support of the other Liberals.
Mr. Williams is also looking for support from Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and other premiers to delay budget changes that affect revenues from the equalization formula and the Atlantic Accord.
But it remained unclear Friday whether Mr. Ignatieff would back Mr. Williams's proposal.
“This is not a matter between myself and Michael Ignatieff. Michael Ignatieff is doing his best to try and remedy a very terrible situation,” the Premier said.
“I lay this squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Harper and his cohorts.”
If the concern is one of optics, I would suggest a counter view, that has an upside. While the obvious presentation of division in the ranks isn't necessarily advantegeous, having a group of Liberals vote against the budget, also sends a clear signal that this isn't our document and we do have genuine reservations. The decision to support, is one made on balance, but that doesn't preclude criticism or pointing to problems. The simplistic, and quite silly, suggestion that letting this budget pass is tantamount to full endorsement of the Harper Conservatives, isn't necessarily a real concern, but allowing these MP's some latitude does highlight the real disconnects.
There is also the danger of precedent, and Ignatieff will surely have to field questions about a "divided" caucus. However, isn't that reality already in the public domain, everyone knows how these MP's feel, a censor or "toe the line" doesn't remove the perception? In letting these MP's vote against, it allows these people to stay true, without crippling the overall Liberal position moving forward. Everyone has problems with parts of this budget, it's really a decision made in totality. Liberal MP's showing their displeasure, is actually symbolic of a real tension, and I'm not sure it's necessarily negative to present a budget vote, which speaks to the lack of universal approval.