Federal Update for October 21 2020 – 5:05PM

Canadians will not be going to the polls as the federal government has survived another confidence vote in the House of Commons this afternoon.

Further to Leader Erin O’Toole’s comments last week, the Conservative Party tabled a motion that pushed for the creation of an “anti-corruption” committee to look into “ethical problems” with government spending that would address the recent WE Charity controversy. The Liberals, calling it “an ultra-partisan, irresponsible” motion, vehemently opposed the idea, and in an effort to regain control over the legislative agenda designated the motion a confidence vote. That put the fate of the government on the Wednesday afternoon vote — if the motion carried, it would have triggered a series of events that would result in a fall election.

The Bloc Québécois indicated previously that they would side with the Conservatives and support the motion, leaving the fate of the federal government up to the NDP. Ultimately, the NDP sided with the Liberals and voted against the motion, as did the Green Party.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh held a media conference earlier this afternoon indicating that his party would not send Canadians to an election during the COVID-19 pandemic: “We are voting for Canadians. We are voting against an election.”

As this story unfolded over the last week, it was largely seen as a game of chicken between the minority Liberal government and the Opposition Conservatives. Each took a calculated risk to ensure that they were delivering a clear message to Canadians, all the while expecting someone else to turn the steering wheel and avoid an election.

It is important to note that confidence votes are usually strictly tied to bills and motions that directly involve government spending. After the Throne Speech earlier this Fall, a confidence vote wasn’t expected until the Fall Economic Statement or a Federal Budget. With the Liberals willing to force the Opposition to vote on matters of confidence for non-budgetary votes, we can expect the Liberals to use this scarcely-used tool as a way to deliver on their agenda.

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