Thursday, June 14, 2007

Is Stephane Dion a Leader?

This and other interesting questions come to mind after reading the Post's report that Liberal Senators may defy Dion and amend the budget or even defeat it. (H/T National Newswatch).

According to Senator Terry Mercer, "the Senate is not considered a confidence chamber and thus, unlike the Commons, it can defeat money bills without provoking an election. He said he's already warned Dion that he and other Atlantic Canadian senators won't support the bill, regardless of the leader's view on the matter."

So if that happens, will the money be prevented from flowing where it is needed?

According to Liberal Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette, no. She maintains that:

...the Senate will not be rushed and dismissed the Harper government's contention that more than $4 billion in funding for things like climate change, patient wait times and post-secondary education will be lost if the bill isn't enacted by the end of the month.

"I've been told by others that this is totally false, the money will not be lost," she said.

So, just who are those "others"?

Is anyone a constitutional expert here?

* * * *

More at DBT.

Update: It's interesting too that Dion has a totally different skew on how things work in Ottawa:

The news will have been greeted with some nervousness by Liberal leader Stephane Dion. If the budget is not passed by month's end, the government says $4-billion intended for program spending will not go out the door as planned and he will get the blame.

Well, either Stephane Dion is misinformed or else the Liberal Senate is. No wonder the ROC is confused.


Anonymous said...

Could it be that the Liberal in the Senate are the ones actually managing the Liberals in the house?

I'm thinking...yes.

Anthony said...

No wonder only 20% of Canadians want Dion to be PM. He doesn't even know how the system works.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I would like to see some official clarification on this. It could have all sorts of ramifications either way.

Calgary Junkie said...

Here's some of what was said last Friday, by Newman's "Press Gallery Pundits" (re Liberal Senators referring Bill S4 to Supreme Court):

Don Newman: How dumb are the Liberals, particularly the Liberals in the Senate ? By holding up this Senate term bill, which is exactly what the Conservatives want. This is to be held up in the Senate ... they had a commercial saying Dion is not a leader, because he can't deal with this, and they go ahead and play right into this ?

Rob Rousseau: I'm certain this is not going to be a ballot box issue ... I don't think people care about this one way or another. The only place people care is in Alberta, that vote's locked up pretty much anyway ... I'm not sure it helps the Liberals. I certainly doesn't hurt them.

Susan Delcourt: I'm with Rob on this one.

Chris Hall: I"m with you on this one Don, the Senators went too far,
it gave them an out they didn't really have to take. They went too far. But he [Van Loan] wouldn't have been able to go after them that this is a constitutional crisis.

Newman: Van Loan is blowing smoke on this, he's really happy with what the Liberals have done.

Greg Weston: Dumb, totally dumb.
The average Canadian voter watching this sees only one thing ... a lot of entitled Senators for life not wanting to shorten the nicest job in the world... most people are going to be sort of appalled by it. If the Conservatives can make this stick to the Liberals, all this does is bring back the thing about Liberal entitlements. Everything the current administration are trying to put behind them.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

C.J. - Thanks for that. They really boxed themselves in a corner here.

The best scenario for the Liberals would be for them to play this that Dion somehow 'convinced' the Senate to let the budget pass, because the majority of the democratically-elected part of the government has willed it so.

That would make Dion look like an actual leader, and would save the butts of those Liberal Senators.

Let's see how it plays out and see if I'm right.

Calgary Junkie said...

Joanne, I'm nowhere near a constitutional expert. But if Van Loan made a big deal that the Senators insisting on referring Bill S-4 would trigger a constitutional crisis. Then I suspect Van Loan would go ballistic if the Senators block the budget. That would set a precedent which, in my opinion, Harper just cannot allow to stand.

I think Harper would have a near bullet-proof case that he can't let the unelected Senators get away with getting power over spending & taxation. Those exlusive powers of the House of Commons would forever be diminished. And that Harper needs
the voters to set things straight.

Of course, the huge bonus is that "how to deal with the Senate", becomes one of the ballot-box issues (as Tom Flanagan has predicted in Macleans).

Harper wants to reform it one step at a time. Dion wants comprehensive reforms all at the same time. Layton and Duceppe want to abolish it.

One week ago, Rick Anderson said that these [Senate] tv ads are hurtful for the Liberals, and hold their feet to the fire on an issue that's sensitive for them.

To annonymous #1, one of the radio ads asks "Either Dion is some sort of puppet-on-a-string, Or he just likes things the way they are">

PGP said...

Constitutional expert? More like grade school student.

I seem to remember from back in Grade6 that the if the Senate does not acclaim any legislation as is it must go back to the house.

That being said, the consequences are obvious. In this case the budget is not passed and the programs under that budget are not funded until it is passed.

I think you hit a a fundamental truth about Canadian Politics Jo.

The Senate is full of people who are quite happy to have the public confused about what goes on. It allows them to perpetuate the myth that they are somehow indispensable.
While media muttonheads prattle about constitutional rules or political strategy the simple fact of the matter is that these privileged buffoons are simply doing what they always do .... protect their status and justifying their patronage appointment by the LPC.

As for Dion ... he's just clueless!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

As for Dion ... he's just clueless!.

And if Red Tory or any of his minions are reading this and want to throw a hissy fit over PGP calling Dion 'clueless', don't even try. It doesn't come close to what I've been exposed to from your side over the past few days.

dudley doright said...

“Mercer pointed out that the Senate is not considered a confidence chamber and thus, unlike the Commons, it can defeat money bills without provoking an election.”

According to Liberal Senator Terry Mercer, an unelected Senate which is not a “confidence chamber”, can over ride the decision made by the House of Commons, which in fact is a “confidence chamber” with impunity?

Senator Mercer apparently does not realize how revolting and undemocratic his position is that a band of unelected Liberal hacks can control the will of an elected House of Commons.

Then again, according to the Senate website, Senator Mercer has 15 years to ponder his stupidity before he is forced to retire on May 6, 2022.

PGP said...

No need to defend my assertions Jo.

Time will tell! And you can be sure that in spite of all the efforts to diminish the faults of Dion he will continue to provide plenty of reason for scorn.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

No need to defend my assertions Jo.

It's not so much my defending you, as trying to illustrate the irony and intellectual dishonesty behind his criticizing me for allowing various comments to stand on my blog, when he turns around and allows total filth on his!

jenna said...

There was a senator from NS on last week who explained it this way. Technically there is no rule that says that the Senate has no power to amend or defeat a budget, but convention, going back to about 1823 has held that since the budget is the control mechanism over taxation and spending, the Senate has not gone this route. If they simply try to amend the budget, Dion is correct - it will just bounce back and forth from the Senate to the House and back to the Senate, causing some REALLY bad press for the Liberals. In addition, I believe there is a rule that says a money bill may only be returned to the House once. Senator Mercer can say all he wants about the Senate not being a "confidence chamber", but it would be impossible for any Government to continue in office if the Senate defeated the budget. I agree that "Harper would have a near bullet-proof case that he can't let the unelected Senators get away with getting power over spending & taxation. Those exlusive powers of the House of Commons would forever be diminished. And that Harper needs the voters to set things straight."

I suspect there will be a lot of sabre-rattling for the next two weeks to try to embarrass the Tories on the equalization issue, but in the end the Senate will concede. I just don't understand why they don't care that they are so clearly being seen to disregard Dion's wishes.

Brian in Calgary said...

Hey, I think we should just lighten up on poor, poor Dion. It can't be easy for him, being the nominal leader of a political party that can't get used to an electoral defeat. It takes time for our Liberal friends to get used to reality.

Calgary Junkie said...

Harper is known as a long-term thinker. I'm sure he had a strategy all along for if he wants an early election, then how to do it in such a way that it looks like the Liberals caused it.

Who would have thought that Harper would use Liberal Senators to do the triggering for him ? And on an issue that plays extremely well to Harper's base (eg me who cares a lot about democratic reform). Take a look at Joanne's link to Ivison's column Senate bashing may revive Tories ...

Conservative sources say the recent campaign suggesting senators are intent on blocking Stephen Harper's Senate reforms paid for itself because of the subsequent spike in party donations.

That trickle of cash into Conservative coffers will become a torrent if Liberal senators follow through on threats made by Celine Hervieux-Payette, the Liberal leader in the Senate, to amend the Budget Implementation Bill, ...

Money is just one of the huge advantages Harper would have going into the election. Also, Layton and Duceppe would go from being Dion's allies to Dion's enemies. And they would probably hate him a lot more, for being such a powerless leader, forcing them to campaign when they aren't ready either.

Dion, who is bad at hiding his true feelings, sounded pretty frightened that the Senators might go their merry way, not caring about the dire consequences of their actions to Dion.

But maybe Harper is being aided and abetted by unknown Liberals who want to get rid of Dion ASAP ?
How many friends does Dion really have ? Why did 25 or so Liberal MPs not even show up for the final budget vote ? In many ways
Dion, looks powerless and alone.

Okay, I'll end the rambling post :)

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Jenna, thanks for that input. I found this on National Newswatch - Government demand Senate pass budget.

That article mentions the 'convention' as well.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

C.J. - You have mirrored my thoughts exactly. Harper doesn't play checkers. He plays chess. He likely already has his 'checkmate' move in motion.

And the Liberal Dion-deniers are likely helping rally the Senate at the blockades.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Red Tory didn't stop by here hurling his mature and convincing insults with the slew of name calling in between.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

DBT - If he tried, he wouldn't get far.