Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

Out of Nowhere. Heading back that way?

Posted by JJ in Strategic Planning, Hats Off, Gentlemen, Gaia (Thursday October 5, 2006 at 2:03 am)

After months of watching the government run Parliamentary circles around an opposition whose own strategy was remedial, at best, an observer might have had cause to wonder whether there were any experienced MPs on the opposition benches at all. Today’s vote, sending a private member’s bill to committee, proves that there are.

Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez’s Bill, C-288, has the potential to embarass the government by:

  • Requiring an annual account of measures to be taken to meet Kyoto objectives
  • Requiring Cabinet to enact legislation as necessary to implement those measures

C-288 is unlikely to become law for two reasons. Private members’ bills can be easily blocked by extending debate on government bills or Ministerial speeches or eliminated by opening a new Parliamentary session. Given that bills are randomly drawn for consideration from a large pool of potential legislation, it’s unlikely that a replacement bill would make it as far again. Second, while most of its provisions only require drafting of regulations, the requirement that the annual account include:

(iii) spending or fiscal measures or incentives

Is something the government may try to qualify as requiring public expenditure. If so, it can’t become law without an accompanying Royal Recommendation, which only the government can provide. The opposition will argue that this clause only requires the reporting of such measures where taken by the government without actually requiring the expenditure itself. The opposition will have the better of that argument.

Most importantly for the Liberals, the passage of this bill through first reading provides distraction from the auditor-general’s report on their own environmental record, and will, they hope, sap some momentum from the Tories’ public musings over environmental proposals to be named later.

But there’s a problem with this approach. While it’s guaranteed to accomplish those goals short-term, there isn’t much in it for a sustainable attack; and while forestalling government momentum is good politics, the Liberals are still in sore need of something positive to displace it. Besides which, the Tories’ public musings are just that — musings. There will be announcements of the actual program to come, and the Liberals won’t be able to brandish this vote a second time.

No doubt, the Liberal hope for a proposal rests on the outcome of their leadership contest; but Messianic leadership didn’t produce this success, and if the work of a near-rookie member, backed by an experienced caucus can have such successes, it’s not really a question of getting ideas from the leader. It’s a question of getting someone who can work with the strength already there.

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