Commons amends budget in surprise midnight vote
The federal Liberals scored a quick and decisive victory Thursday night, catching the Conservatives off guard by passing their controversial budget amendment and ensuring their minority government is safe until the fall.
Bill C-48, the NDP amendment to the budget that adds $4.6 billion in social spending, passed third reading by a vote of 152-147.
Losing the vote would have automatically triggered a federal election. But after months of threats to bring down the government, the budget bill last night was the last matter of confidence the House of Commons will vote on this session.
In a surprise move, and with a number of Conservative MPs missing, the Liberals marched out a rarely used obscure procedural motion to cut off all debate and force an immediate vote on the budget.
The Liberals had forged a deal with the NDP and the Bloc QuÃ©bÃ©cois to get the motion to cut off debate carried. (The Bloc later voted against the budget amendment itself, however.)
Many Conservative MPs had already left the House when word got out the Liberals were going to force a midnight vote on the budget.
Tories blast deal
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who was forced to rush back, blasted the three-way alliance.
"When push comes to shove, the Liberals will make any deal with anybody," Harper said after the vote. "And it doesn't matter whether it's with the socialists or with the separatists or any bunch of crooks they can find. That's how they govern the country."
Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay also expressed his outrage over the political manoeuvring.
"It's a very sour end to an acrimonious and bitter session and does not bode well for the future workings of Parliament. If this is the kind of diabolical, sneaky, treacherous, behind-the-scenes activities that are going to go on..."
MacKay went further, comparing the Liberals to one of Hollywood's most notorious homicidal cannibals.
"We have to start thinking that Hannibal Lecter is running the government and they'll do anything they have to do to win."
Martin was told about the chance to force a vote on the budget late Thursday night after his staff had found the obscure motion. He then gave them the go-ahead to make a deal with the Bloc and the NDP.
"Well, I'm very glad we got the budget passed," Martin said. "I think it's very important budget for child care, for cities."
NDP Leader Jack Layton celebrated his party's victory in getting its amendment passed.
"I think we came here to do a job and we've tried to stay focused on that and tonight we saw some results," he said.
House session extended
In another move on Thursday night, MPs voted 191-108 to extend the sitting of the House of Commons, the first time such an extension has been approved in 17 years.
That move will give the government more time to push through its same-sex marriage bill.
In order to get the same-sex bill passed the Bloc asked for and received a written guarantee the legislation will come to a vote before the parliamentary session ends.
The Conservatives were quick to pounce on the Liberals. "Let's be clear, the Liberal party is now cutting deals with the separatists, to appease the socialists, to prop up their corrupt government," MacKay said.
In order to have the House prolong the session, the Liberals needed the support of the Bloc, and House leader Michel Gauthier showed off a letter he exchanged with his Liberal counterpart Tony Valeri.
Gauthier wanted a written guarantee the House would not break until after the same-sex marriage bill gets to a vote.
The same-sex legislation is expected to pass easily with the support of most Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc.