April 28 2004
Liberals vote down opposition motion calling for fixed election dates
Tue Apr 27, 8:15 PM ET
OTTAWA (CP) – Liberals voted in a bloc Tuesday, defeating an
opposition motion calling for set American-style election dates every
The government has proposed other reforms to loosen the prime
minister’s control over Parliament, but Prime Minister Paul Martin
appears unlikely to relinquish the prerogative over election timing.
“We’re not for it – you won’t see a change in the electoral system
tomorrow,” said a spokeswoman for Government House Leader Jacques
Saada, Marie-Claude Lavigne.
“But we’re not against it either. We’d be happy to consult people . .
. and see if the value of this argument (one fixed election dates) is
Liberal MPs heeded a call to vote with their leader and crushed the
symbolic Conservative motion 167-61. The Bloc Quebecois also voted
against, while the NDP supported the call for fixed election dates.
Elections must currently be held within five years of any new
mandate, and are generally called whenever prime ministers feel their
political party has the best chance of winning.
Martin is currently struggling with that calculation as he
criss-crosses the country in an attempt to boost his party’s stagnant
poll numbers to levels that would make him feel confident enough to
call a vote.
The prime minister has been coy about his election plans despite
speculation that he might drop the writ for June 14.
Earlier this year Martin said he wouldn’t call a vote until he got to
the bottom of the sponsorship scandal. Tuesday he said he wants to
see how negotiations go with the provinces on health-care funding
before he jumped into a campaign.
But party insiders say his election plans truly hinge on whether he
sees poll results that would indicate he has a strong chance of
winning a majority government.
Opposition MPs jumped on that uncertainty Tuesday to argue that the
system needs to be overhauled.
“The prime minister’s preference for the status quo is hardly
surprising,” said Conservative MP Paul Forseth.
“Any head of government would be reluctant to part with one of the
perks of power – and we know the Liberals will do anything for
British Columbia became the first province to have fixed election
dates under changes ushered in by the province’s Constitution
Amendment Act of 2001. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has also
expressed support for the idea.
If Canada were on a four-year election cycle, Forseth said, the prime
minister wouldn’t be dithering over whether to drop the writ this
“His government wouldn’t be marking time with no significant
legislation before the House of Commons, his ministers wouldn’t be
testing the political winds, recycling old spending announcements and
making tentative short-term plans,” he said.
Martin has promised a host of reforms to Parliament – including more
free votes for regular MPs, and a chance for them to scrutinize
federal appointments to everything from the Supreme Court to Crown
His government lost a politically sensitive vote last week when
backbench Liberals voted overwhelmingly to recognize that genocide
was committed against Armenians in 1915.
Liberal backbenchers used their new-found voting freedom and broke
ranks with the Martin cabinet, whose members were ordered to vote
with the prime minister.
The Turkish government had warned Canada not to recognize the
genocide, and later criticized the Commons result and hinted at
possible economic sanctions.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress