Canadians will not be heading to the polls for a snap fall election now that the Liberal government has survived a confidence vote on a Conservative motion to create a special committee to probe the government’s ethics and pandemic spending.
MPs voted 180-146 to defeat the opposition motion, with the NDP, Greens and Independent MPs voting with the Liberals.
Despite the vote, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh would not say today that he has confidence in the government.
“I am confident that we can keep on fighting for people and we’ve shown that we’ve won for people,” he told Vassy Kapelos, host of CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.
“In this case, what it was really about, what became really clear, was that Prime Minister Trudeau was looking for an excuse to go to an election and we did not want to give Justin Trudeau an excuse to go to an election.”
In a news conference just two hours before the confidence vote, Singh said the NDP will still work to get answers on the WE Charity scandal through the Commons ethics committee, and that his party will push the government for more pandemic support for Canadians.
The Bloc Québécois had already confirmed it will support the Conservative motion, while the Green Party indicated that its three MPs would vote against the motion.
The opposition day motion would have created a special committee to probe the Trudeau government’s ethics and spending in response to the pandemic — including the controversial WE Charity contract to administer a student volunteer grant program.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not recuse himself from talks on the agreement, even though several of his family members had been paid for speaking engagements by the organization.
The Liberal government has declared the vote on the Conservative motion a matter of confidence that could trigger an election — a high-stakes move that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called a “farce.”
In a news conference before the vote, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said if the motion doesn’t pass, he would continue to work with other parties to hold the government to account. He criticized the government and Trudeau for framing the vote as a confidence matter.
“His designation of this vote as a confidence vote shows that he’s willing to put the electoral fortunes of the Liberal Party ahead of the health, safety and well-being of Canadians,” he said.
“Most Canadians would think that’s unacceptable.”
Singh told Kapelos that its “pretty rich for the Conservatives” to suggest that the special committee is the only way to get answers when other facts and details about WE Charity came to light at regular committees.
“The Conservatives would have you believe this is the only way to get to the bottom of the spending scandal with the Liberal government. That’s not the case,” he said. “So far, ministers have testified, documents have been produced, the Kielburger brothers testified, all at regular committees. The ethics and the finance committee.”
Speaking after the vote, Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen said her party does not regret putting forward the motion and argued the prime minister put his own political self-interest ahead of the health and safety of Canadians.
“We don’t regret doing our job. Our job is to hold the government to account. Our job is to ask tough questions. We didn’t expect them to like it but we certainly didn’t think the prime minister was going to be that arrogant and say that he was going to make it a confidence motion to cover himself and protect his own interests,” she told Kapelos.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez brushed away suggestions that his government would make every vote in the House a matter of confidence as a tactic going forward.
“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” Rodriguez said. “This is a serious matter. What they proposed here is extremely serious. They go over the limits. It’s irresponsible. It was about paralyzing the government in the middle of pandemic when we need to be there working for Canadians, working for our seniors, working for our families, helping those who have lost their jobs.”
Asked by reporters if the NDP had an obligation to support the Conservative motion, NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said, “There’s many ways to skin a cat, my friends.”
Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell said the ethical questions surrounding the government require a special committee with a clear mandate. He said it’s the “duty” of opposition parties to hold the government to account.
“This is what the issue is all about with this motion, and what we see right now is a prime minister who will do whatever it takes to call an election,” he said.
“The only Canadian who would like to have an election today is the prime minister. The only Canadian who would like to freeze the government for a few months is the prime minister by calling an election.”
The Conservatives amended the original motion to state that voting to launch the committee should not be considered grounds to order an election.
It also dropped the “anti-corruption committee” label it initially proposed.
Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien said the WE Charity issue is so complex that it requires a special committee to get answers.
He said the Liberals’ “scorched-earth” approach to politics is the product of a “club of cronyism” and renders compromise impossible.
He also criticized the NDP, suggesting the party’s MPs have obediently followed Liberal demands.
“The NDP have acted in the last little while a little like the Liberals’ lap dog,” he said.
‘Unwelcome drama’: Paul
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul issued a statement urging the parties to cool their jets, calling the brinkmanship “unwelcome drama.”
“The Liberal and Conservative parties’ high-stakes, high-tech game of chicken can have no winner,” she said.
“They should leave such games outside of Parliament, and focus on the urgent needs of people in Canada. I ask members of Parliament to dial down the rhetoric, which is not in keeping with the seriousness of this unprecedented moment, so that we can get back to working on the critical matters at hand.”