In a surprise midnight vote yesterday that caught the Conservatives off-guard, Canada’s minority Liberal government quickly cleared the way for a vote on the hotly debated same-sex marriage legislation.
The Liberals struck a major victory last night after it forced a vote on the controversial budget bill, with a number of Conservative MPs missing.
The budget was passed by a vote of 152-147. Losing the vote would have automatically toppled the Liberal government and triggered a federal election.
By the time it became evident that the Liberals were going to force a midnight vote, many Conservative MPs had reportedly already left the House, including Conservative leader Stephen Harper, who rushed back.
The budget vote was the Conservatives’ last opportunity to topple the Liberal minority government before the fall session. Political reporters had said the Conservatives had plans to try to bring down the government Monday.
The Liberals forced the budget vote by pulling out a rarely used and obscure procedural motion that cuts off all debate. This win secures their political leadership at least until the fall.
Earlier yesterday, the Liberals won a vote to extend the parliamentary session into the summer — the first such extension in 17 years — in order to pass the two controversial bills.
In order to extend the session, the Liberals needed the support of Canada’s separatist party, the Bloc Québécois. It got this support after the Liberals struck a deal with the Bloc and gave them a written guarantee that the same-sex marriage legislation — bill C-38 — will come to a vote before the session ends.
"The Liberal party is now cutting deals with the separatists, to appease the socialists, to prop up their corrupt government," Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay had remarked.
With the budget bill passed, that leaves bill C-38 as the big issue on the table. It is expected to pass easily as it has the support of the Bloc, the NDP and most Liberals.
Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay expressed outrage over the Liberals’ political scheming.
"It's a very sour end to an acrimonious and bitter session and does not bode well for the future workings of Parliament,” he reportedly said.
He described the Liberals’ tactics as well as the deals that they struck with the socialist NDP and the separatist Bloc parties as “diabolical, sneaky, treacherous, [and] behind-the-scenes.”
MacKay even compared the Liberals to one of Hollywood's most notorious killers: “We have to start thinking that Hannibal Lecter is running the government and they'll do anything they have to do to win.”
Prime Minister Paul Martin commented on yesterday’s events, saying: “Well, I'm very glad we got the budget passed. I think it's very important budget for child care and for cities.”